Dear Dinner Time,
Why must you come right when my children decide to turn into tiny monsters? And why must you make me resemble some mix between Cruella Devil and the Beast? My husband may be slightly scared of me because of you. We always start out as friends. We have big dreams. I spend hours making lists for you and shopping for you and planning for your delicious outcomes. Sometimes we start out so friendly, and then before I know it, a whole box of cereal has been dumped on the ground and I’ve hit my head on the top of the freezer door after searching for something in the refrigerator for ten minutes because apparently I am the only one who understands fridge logic and the baby is screaming because I tripped over him since he is pretty sure his feet should be sewn to mine. This war we have going is real, and since I love my kids (no matter how much you try to convince me otherwise) I am calling a truce.
slightly begrudgingly) yours,
(Cooking dinner right after something just exploded in the microwave and a child pooped in the bath)
I have had an off and on relationship with dinner time for a while now. I have realized that dinner is not always going to go well, and that is ok. I have also realized that I never want to give up on this time with my family. The fact that it comes every day and so many people need something from me at the same time made me decide to do some real serious dinner thinking. Here are a few dinner hacks for you:
- Make it YOUR time. Instead of it being for everybody else, what if you looked at dinner like it was for YOU? This was my dinner savior for a while. My husband was getting home really late for a few months at the beginning of his residency. I felt like I was getting no time to just breathe. Enter: Treat Yo’self
I went to the grocery store and got some nice bread and cheese and my favorite bottled herbal tea (Honest brand pomegranate flavor). Every night for a few weeks I would turn on the TV for my oldest, turn on some good music in the kitchen and make myself a little French smorgasbord with my favorite drink while I cooked. My baby was usually still crying, but I tried to not overthink it and just listen to my music. This honestly got me through a few months of hard evenings all by myself. So, next time you are at the grocery store pick up a fun little appetizer and drink for yourself and look forward to cooking dinner as YOUR time. I have noticed that life is all about phases, and whatever you do to make each phase happy is great.
2. Prepare it before! On days where I really want to enjoy my dinner I try to do as much prep as I can BEFORE dinner time. This is where crockpot recipes work really great. If I am planning on a meal that is not crockpot, and am feeling rather energetic that day I will get as much of the cooking done during a nap time or a time that I know the boys will be happy (aka usually not around 5 pm).
This meal I mostly just needed to cook the chicken right before we ate. I got everything out and set it on the counter during nap time, so when 5 pm rolled around and my baby (Bennett) started crying I could easily hold him and cook at the same time. I know this probably sounds silly and not needed to a lot of people reading this. However, I also know there are the few that are in the stage of a colicky baby who always needs to be held and would do just about anything to make those witching hours (5-8) go a little bit better. Sometimes just having my ingredients and measuring utensils all ready to go makes doing it with a crying baby seem a little more doable.
3. Make it FUN!!! I do not do this a lot, but when I want to get out of the routine of “having to make dinner” this is what I turn to. I change it up and add a little something special. Sometimes this means feeding the boys peanut butter and jelly, putting them to bed a little early, and eating some popcorn chicken from Costco with my husband while watching our favorite show. I have noticed that anything on a stick is really fun to eat. So sometimes we will just put our dinner on kabob sticks for the heck of it.
Other times it is changing the location and having a picnic outside our house. The other night I made Chinese and Boston helped Taylor make a little table that we could all sit around on the floor in our living room.
You can see how much Bennett was enjoying this dinner 🙂 There are so many ways to make dinner a fun activity instead of just getting through it. Do a whole dinner with no utensils, fondu, candlelight with the kids, putting dinner on parchment paper and making pictures with it while eating, pretending to be animals while eating, movie night dinner, fancy dinner and have the kids help set the table. Dinner time is such a special way to be with family, and it is so easy for me to forget that and get lost in cleaning up and crying kids. Sometimes I wonder if my kids get more cranky around that time because I am showing more stress.
4. Bring it back to love. I am only just now starting to get back into a normal dinner routine since having my sweet Benny (he is 15 months). He is starting to interact with us at the dinner table and sit at his own seat without crying. It fills my heart up with so much joy to see my favorite people eating all around a table together. I think the reason food is so important to most adults is because it is wrapped up in memories of people. People who loved them when they were babies and toddlers and made them food every day and watched them eat and cleaned their tiny little faces off after and felt so satisfied to see their full bellies. It is such a necessary act of service, and I sometimes feel like it is all I do every day. Make food, feed food, clean food. Maybe that is all those little boys think I do all day, too. And you know what? I think those little boys of mine are going to grow up and move away and miss their mom a lot at dinner time. They might think it is just because they are eating nachos every night for dinner because they are too lazy to cook anything else. But I will know it is because they miss having someone who loves them make them food just so she can stare at their cute faces and hear their funny little stories. When I feed my boys dinner, I feed their hearts too.