Top of the list of things that shouldn't get to me but do is the children not liking what I cook.
I'm not a great cook anyway (and neither is my husband) so I already feel guilt over the amount of frozen ready-meals we eat. I've told myself that I'm never going to be that mother who whips fresh ingredients together every day into a nutritious and healthy meal, and that that's not the end of the world. But accepting it doesn't take the guilt away, so I have stress over mealtimes to start with.
Yesterday, I was a few minutes from dishing up, when my son started asking what was for dinner, which was inevitably followed by: "I don't like it!" and "Want toast!" Instead of letting my husband deal with it as he was in the middle of doing, I lost my temper and snapped at him.
My son promptly burst into tears, but worse yet, so did my daughter, who is always prone to meltdowns in the evenings, and as a consequence, she refused to sit in her highchair, instead wanting my lap, which more or less ruined my dinner and didn't do much for anybody else's.
It must be noted that my son dutifully ate his whole portion with very little fuss – probably because he didn't have a hope of getting our attention over his sister's racket.
The thing is, my son's three. He's about as fussy as you expect a three year old to be, and while we need to work on the whining about what he's served, he's not that bad about actually eating. I should let his complaints about the food roll off me like water off a duck's back, but I can't.
It's just so dispiriting every mealtime to try and figure out what to serve up that everybody can eat, that won't incur too much of a battle with my son but won't be caving in to him either, and I know full well that my efforts will go unappreciated. We mothers don't get a lot of positive reinforcement on this kind of thing, and it's embarrassing how much I can resent that.
I need to get over it though, since this is one of those things that is going to get worse before it gets better, since my daughter will start having her own dietary preferences soon. Actually, she's got them now, although it's more about where she eats her dinner (my lap vs her chair) than what she eats for it. This has become such a recurring theme that we've decided we've got to put our foot down. She can't sit on my lap for every evening meal.
Well, I suppose she could, on the basis that sooner or later, she'd decide that she wants to sit in her own chair like everybody else... We just run the risk of me going crazy before then. I'm not that kind of mother either.
So tonight we did our usual walk on eggshells around her to keep her in a good mood, only for my husband to accidentally knock her head with her plastic tray as he set her up in the chair. Cue tears and meltdown and wanting to come to me. But no. We weren't having it. She had to learn. We were going to wait until the storm had passed. We were resolute.
Except the storm didn't pass. She got hysterical, and started rolling her head around, completely out of control. I've known my daughter for almost a year now which is more than long enough for me to know that she can't calm herself down from that. But I also knew that if we took her out of the chair to soothe her, she'd only start crying when we put her back in it. So I had to calm her down while she was in the chair....
To cut a long story short, I ended up draped across her tray, arms around her, my face in her face, and thank the lord, she started sucking her thumb. If you can get her calm enough to suck her thumb, the ordeal is basically over. She eventually devoured her entire meal... about twenty minutes after we first served it to her.
I can't really cuddle her across her tray every mealtime either, but at least we've found a way of in-chair soothing now. Hopefully we can cut down the soothing time to something more conducive to family dinners. Or at least before she learns how to whine: "I don't like it!"