Here at my house, it’s all about the slow food movement.
No, not that one. I’m the microwave queen, and if I can help myself along by dumping some portion of my meal out of a box, I’ll gladly do it. I try to limit my visits to the drive-thru, but sometimes you just gotta have some fries. I regret nothing.
Our slow food movement takes place at the dinner table. And our preschooler is the movement’s leader and sole participant. While my husband and I tuck into our dinners, Nora skates her fingers around the edge of the plate, wiggles around in her chair, regales us with stories and just generally does everything she can to drag dinner out as long as possible.
I bet I say “go ahead and eat” 50 times a night. Make that 100 if you count the shortened version: “Eat.” Which is usually served up with a stern face and maybe a jab of the finger toward her plate. And up that to 8,000 if you include all instances of “WILL YOU PLEASE JUST #%^@ EAT ALREADY?!”
We’re trying hard to be cool about it. It’s a bad idea to hassle your kid into eating, probably. And it’s not a life-or-death situation. She gobbles her breakfast, usually makes it through lunch and gladly consumes snacks here and there. So she’s not starving. She’s just making dinner annoying and overly long, that’s all.
We’ve tried setting a timer. We’ve tried backing off completely. You KNOW we’ve tried extensive bribery. All of these things work, sometimes. Every now and then, she throws us off by sitting down, diligently eating dinner and making pleasant conversation when she is done. This is when we check her birthmarks to make sure she’s not a clone of some sort with a serious programming glitch.
Most of the time, we, the grownups, eat our dinner, sit back in our chairs and then notice she’s eaten maybe two bites of hers and is playing with her fork. And then we sit. And sit. And sit. And cajole and beg and threaten and complain and give up. It’s a really lovely time. Want to come over? For dessert, we’ll have a crying child who’s upset because she hasn’t earned dessert and also has run out of time to play before bedtime. Delicious!
On the plus side, I usually get through the entire newspaper each day now. At breakfast, I barely have time to scan the headlines, and lunch maybe allows time to read one or two articles. At dinner, I refrain from reading or checking the phone while the grownups are eating, but after that I find myself picking up the paper, my phone, the day’s junk mail — anything to distract myself from the frustration that is dinner with a preschooler.
So maybe this whole experience is making me smarter, at least about local and world events. But when it comes to making a distracted 3-year-old eat, I’m as dumb as that cold heap of mashed potatoes sitting untouched on her plate.