Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Please Stop Asking Me What's for Dinner

Family of mine, I love you more than you could ever comprehend, but please, I beg of you, stop badgering me about what's for dinner. It's not that I mind your inquisitive nature. It's the eye-rolling and petitioning for alternative dining choices that aren't working for me.

Yes, I wholeheartedly welcomed you kids into this world with a promise to nourish your heart, mind and body. I'm more than cool with the heart and mind thing, but I have to tell you....the constant procuring of healthy nutrients to feed your growing bodies on demand has gotten quite exhausting.

Here's a tip:  if I'm still cleaning up the breakfast dishes, I am not, in any way, shape or form, ready to address the dinner issue. You couldn't possibly be hungry again already, so I can only assume you're simply preparing notes for the I Hate Broccoli Tantrum you've scheduled later that afternoon.

I'll let you in on a little secret. Sometimes when you ask me what's for dinner.....I honestly don't know yet! It's not like I have an inexhaustible source from which I can pull creative meal plans to begin with, and I'm horrible under pressure. As you may have noticed. Repeatedly.

And let's be honest. No matter what I finally do make for dinner, at least one of you will be unhappy. One of you might cry or flat out refuse to eat. One of you will bemoan that I always make that, and you're sick of it.

Secret #2:  I'm probably sick of it, too! But if has some protein, some fiber and/or vegetables, and it's relatively quick to prepare around all your sports and activities, yes, you are going to see it again.

To be clear, I am not, nor will I ever be, a short order cook. I can barely get it together to prepare ONE meal for the group. There's a lot of pressure to make something healthy and enjoyable for all...and it often proves impossible.

Here's another confession:  I don't live to make dinner. In the same way you don't like when I interrupt your video games, I detest having to stop the 40 other tasks I'm doing to cook...especially when it seems like you all just ate 5 minutes ago. (And PS: I don't really get a kick out of packing school lunches either).

Of course, we've watched Rachael Ray and others who make cooking look fun. What's not to love about each ingredient pre-chopped into its own coordinated mini-bowl?

Except no one puts things into neat little bowls for me at our house. Where do they even buy those mini-bowls anyway? Is there a mini-bowl store solely in business to supply cooking shows with a way to avoid adding ingredients from...gasp!...the container from which they were bought? Oh, that's right. They don't actually buy food. They grow it in their organic gardens...with all the free time they have while others are organizing things into neat little bowls for them.

I know you enjoy when I make dishes like homemade lasagna for the holidays. I've even cut out new recipes that look appetizing. Except these all require two things I do NOT have most days: time and energy.

Because what cheerful Rachael doesn't say, cheerfully, is that her 15-minute meals still require a good 20 mins prep followed by 40 minutes of clean up. The last time I checked, 20+15+40 would make it a 75-minute meal, dear cheerful Rachael. And I'm known as quite the math expert in these parts (cough, cough).

I've also heard it'd supposedly be easier if I planned our meals in advance. I do try. I may have even procured all necessary ingredients for a balanced meal and scheduled it for Monday. Then one of your coaches sets a make-up game. During the three-hour dinner-time window on Monday. (Calmly pick up imaginary pistol, aim and shoot plans to Hell).

Ergo, you see me repeatedly opening and slamming cabinet doors as if doing so will magically make ingredients for a healthy yet delicious quickie meal appear.

And it's not that I don't value your frequent suggestions for fast food. Contrary to popular belief, I do enjoy a burger and fries. I do love how the clean-up would only involve tossing wrappers into the trash. But I also value other things like our hearts and arteries, and the possibility of living to an old age. I can't, in good conscience, let you have utter junk as often as you'd like. I also can't ban certain healthy vegetables or meats from ever appearing, so stop asking.

It may not seem like it, but I put a lot of time and effort into shopping for and preparing your meals....Often only to have them consumed, complained about and completely unappreciated in ten minutes or less. Not a fun glow to bask in while you all go relax, and I'm stuck cleaning up.

Look, as a mom, I accept that "so much effort, so little reward" comes with the territory.  Let's just try to keep dinner from feeling like "ridiculous amount of effort and a public stoning," okay?

So that's why when you ask me what's for dinner for the eleventh time on any given day, I may seem a little cranky. I know my obligation to make dinner. And I do truly want to nourish you. But from now on, can we just assume that at some point it will be dinner time, and at that point, I will put some form of decent --albeit possibly uninspired-- nutrients on the table for your consumption?

Let's just leave it at that and the world will be a much more peaceful place for all six of us. Well, seven, if you include the dog (who has, ahem, yet to ever complain about anything I've ever fed him.....just sayin').

Actual Time Spent Preparing Dinner:  at least 1 hour daily
Average Time Spent Eating Dinner:  15 minutes
Actual Time Spent Dealing with Kids' Dinner Complaints: 30-60 mins daily
Real Feel:  the movie Groundhog Day sums it up nicely

HOW ABOUT YOU? Do you sometimes find cooking dinner a thankless chore?


  1. oh Christie, Christie, Christie -- don't you know that the age old question "What's for Dinner" is really kid-code for "Everything's right in our world, and I (your kid) is just confirming that with you" Trust me, I cracked that code a long time ago. And I don't even like to cook!!! lol. Great post, as always,
    Linda B. Condrillo @LindaWriteNow

    1. Thanks, Linda. Maybe I just need a more specialized decoder ring for the kids I'm dealing with ;)

  2. Oh for the love...I battle this every stinkin' night at our house. When my middle child comes through the door after school, the first thing he says when he spots me is "Mom, what's for dinner?" I am literally just sitting my laptop down from coming in the door from work myself and it's all I can do to not clock him clean across the room. HAHAHAHA. Oh I kid...Kind of.

    So now when any of my kids ask what we're having for dinner I just ALWAYS reply "We're having yuck I don't like that". That way we can just skip the conversation between what are we having and the complaints that lead up to one of them declaring "Yuck, I don't like that!"

    Problem solved. :)

    Thanks for the laugh!

    1. Love how you've come up with a handy Complaint Block Method, Staci. I might have to try that!

      My middle son also pesters me (and complains) the most regularly. He sometimes tries to get an answer out of me at bedtime the night before! He must have gotten me confused with another, much more dinner-organized mom.

  3. I hate the "what's for dinner" question. For a while I used to post each day's planned meal on a white board, in a vain hope that my older children would actually start some of the meal. It never happened. Then the oldest started drawing graffiti of penises on it.

    1. LOL...Sorry your whiteboard idea didn't quite work out the way you'd hoped, ha. I'm the opposite: I try to keep what's for dinner top secret to put off hearing the complaining as long as I can.


One thing I'll always make time for:

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