Hey working moms (yes, that's all of you)! Y'know those critically important things they tell you about childrearing that seem deliberately designed to make you feel inferior if not a total failure? Here's one ...
"You absolutely positively have to sit down to dinner as a family every single solitary night."
Ha ha ha.
When my daughter was little, this was near to impossible. By the time either my husband or I picked her up from daycare (after an hour-plus commute apiece), we were on a very tight timeframe, a countdown to bedtime that had little room for a long, leisurely meal together. Typically, one of us would set out dinner for her, while the other put things away and drew a bath. Our evening rituals were nice, but they rarely included breaking bread as a family unit.
It's easier now (and has been for several years, actually). I run my agency business from home and my husband is a marketing consultant. We sit down for dinner together more evenings than not. And, I kinda sorta see the benefits everyone was raving about. We hear about my daughter's day, her school workload, her riding schedule, her babysitting gigs, her hopes, her dreams (well, maybe not so much those last two). In theory at least, cell phones are not permitted in the dining room. We even try to light candles and play music to add atmosphere. It's all very civilized.
Except when it's not.
Our family tends to bicker, as families are wont to do. Lately, many of the little observations that become issues that become full-blown disagreements revolve around my daughter's evolving appetite. Or lack thereof.
When she was little, I have to admit, my daughter had a rather limited palate. She ate fruit, macaroni and chicken nuggets. Many, many chicken nuggets. (Fear not, these weren't of the golden arches mystery meat variety. They were organic and overpriced. But, still ... how many nuggets can one toddler take?) As each new food item was added to her "yes" list, we rejoiced. Life became progressively easier. For example, did you know that you can get a chicken Caesar salad at pretty much any restaurant anywhere?
The trend continued upwards. She liked mexican food (no wonder — cheese, glorious cheese). She liked japanese food (edamame, miso soup, even sushi). In Paris with me eighteen months ago, she enjoyed croissants and crepes and soupe à l'oignon (see previous comment — fromage, glorious fromage). To my surprise, she liked broccoli. To my husband's horror, she liked beets.
But suddenly we seem to be losing ground. Here, in no particular order, is a short list of menu items that are ... well ... no longer on the menu:
• Eggs in any shape or form (except maybe mixed into uncooked cake batter)
• Bagels (unless they're from Dunkin' Donuts — sorry, but I have to pull a native New Yorker nutty here; those are NOT bagels, no way, no how)
• Pop-tarts (not even the chocolate chip cookie dough ones, a truly revolting take on a fairly revolting food)
• Kiwis (this we learned after buying six of them on sale)
• Roast beef sandwiches (but she'll still do turkey or ham and cheese ... at least this week)
The list goes on, and grows, seemingly, weekly. I've never been a "clean your plate club" mother. I've never made her sit at the table until her food is gone, I've certainly never served a rejected meal, reheated, the next day. But her mysterious changing tastes do irritate me. As does any food we have to throw away because we didn't get the latest memo.
I know I should be grateful. My child has no food allergies. She has no food sensitivities. She's just a picky teenage eater ...
Who has an overindulgent mother.
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