My husband Pete and I discussed what we think the *most* frustrating thing about raising our 3 toddlers is, and hands down we both agreed it was dinner time. We recently got rid of our tall square family table with bar stools and replaced it with a long rectangle table which would be more conducive to dinners for 2 adults and 3 small children. Seems that one of them was always falling off one of the bar stools with our last table and we envisioned more calm and stress free family dinners with our new set up….. it was a nice thought while it lasted!
Our intentions are good each night when we all sit down for dinner. Pete and I smile lovingly across the table at one another, thinking tonight it is going to be better. Those smiles disappear within seconds when we realize that our kids table manners would be better suited for a zoo or barn of some sort.
Every kid seems to have yet ANOTHER request the moment we all sit down and the family dinner table seems to turn into a revolving door with my husband and I getting up for more milk, ketchup, yogurt, spoon instead of a fork and basically anything you can imagine that a kid would want more of at dinner.
In between the getting up and down 30 times an evening Pete and I take turns saying things like, “take another bite, sit up straight, wipe your mouth, you can’t have any more cottage cheese until you eat your lasagna, and it isn’t polite to toot at the dinner table.” It’s non stop and our once high hopes for a pleasant meal are again down the drain…along with most of everyone’s dinner.
I know that with a five, three and one year old this frustrating night time routine will only get better. I am aware that my issues in the future will be that everyone will be too busy to sit down together for family meals and that soccer, dance, friends and underwater basket weaving will take precedence over quality family bonding.
I know that I need to be cherishing this precious time while they are young but it is an exhausting task that leaves my husband and I feeling defeated each night. I am always looking for ways to make our nighttime routine run more smoothly and decided to try out some new things in the weeks ahead to see if they help.
I decided to start taking the kids to the store with me at the beginning of each week to pick out their vegetables, fruits and other healthy items for the week. That way
if when they tell me that they “don’t want carrots,” I simply remind them that is what they selected and to keep eating. They also seem pretty excited to walk around the store knowing that they are picking out their own groceries for the week and take pride eating what they have selected, instead of what I have selected for them.
Next, I have the kids help me with the dinner preparations. Chase loves to crack eggs while Reese loves to stir things for me. Both of them have really enjoyed being responsible for setting the table and have even started taking it a little too seriously, including folding napkins and writing each persons name on them. There is almost always a battle over who to place where but I let them work it out.
I recently purchased a game from Melissa and Doug called Family Dinner Game. It is a box of questions to create clever conversations at dinner time. The kids love this game and we can bribe them with taking a few bites before we go on to the next question. It is pretty funny to hear their answers to the questions and is fun for my husband and I to engage in them as well.
The last thing is that I try to troubleshoot before the meal starts. Finding out what they want to drink and what kind of sauces they are going to need is helpful. Knowing that Reese will eat her chicken with a fork and then will request a spoon for her cottage cheese is useful information before we all sit down.
I know that some day in the distant future we won’t have to tell Reese to keep eating 20 minutes after the rest of us are finished and that Chase will stop leaning his chair back after he has fallen for the 100th time. I know that eventually Lane will eat more than cut up bananas with almond butter on top of them and that at some point Pete and I will be able to enjoy our meals without getting up 20 times. I am fully aware that this day will come, but until then I will keep coming up with creative ways to manage the chaos that is present daily in my household.