And So I Reach for a Wooden Spoon, Wondering if Maybe, Just Maybe, Dinnertime Tonight Might Be a Little Less Stressful

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I've been cooking a lot lately, trying to incorporate as many fresh ingredients as possible from our local co-op. All summer long, we ate out more than we cooked at home, mainly to take advantage of being outdoors in summer, but also to avoid the end-day madness around dinnertime. And it's that end-day madness that deserves its own blog post. Let me explain:

Landon walks in the door, at which point Sam jumps up and runs to the door yelling, "Hi, Daddy!" in a voice amplified well beyond the comfortable decibel range for human ears. Juniper starts crawling in the direction of the front door, stopping to wave her hand at Landon now and then. I quickly greet Landon, ask him about his day, then offer suggestions on what he can do to help me get dinner on the table. This usually means taking one or both of the kids outside for a walk while I finish getting dinner on the table. By the time the three return from a walk, dinner is ready. We sit down, eat, then begins the chore of carrying dirty dishes to the kitchen, wiping down the highchair, sweeping the floor, doing the dishes, and getting the kids to bed. I usually put Juniper in her highchair while I do the dishes, and Landon starts Samuel's bedtime routine. By the time Sam is asleep, it's already after 8PM. Then begins the task of entertaining a fussy Juniper, who, by the end of the day, isn't too keen anymore on entertaining herself. She demands 100% attention in the evenings, and latches on and off again until I feel ready to throw in the towel on breastfeeding. Finally, it's 9:30 or 10PM, at which point she finally winds down and falls asleep. It's almost too late to start a movie, I'm much too tired to focus on a book, and so I blog, catch up on politics and e-mail, and try to think about what's on the agenda for tomorrow and what I need to do to make that agenda happen in an organized manner. Sometimes this means doing laundry, sometimes it means picking up the house if we've invited friends over for a playdate, and other times, it means going to bed immediately so I can function the next day.

Still, dinnertime is probably the most chaotic time of the day. We've tried everything we can think of to make it happen as smoothly as possible, but despite our attempts at troubleshooting, it remains chaotic and not at all relaxing. I wonder if it's a fantasy to expect that a family of four could sit down at the table, talk about the day's events without interrupting each other (hello, we have a three year old), and slowly enjoy the food that took so long to make. No--usually we scarf our food down before Juniper starts crying in her highchair or Sam runs from the table insisting he's done. Conversation is rushed, so we can get our sentences out before Sam interrupts with "MOMMY, remember that time we watched "Planet Earth" and that shark came up out of the water?" That is Samuel's favorite line which he deems worth of an interruption.

I aspire (yes, this word still reminds me of the car I drove in the late nineties) for relaxing evenings spent with family and dinnertime conversations that I can look forward to, but those days haven't reached us--not quite yet.


Anonymous said...

Hi! I'm another Portland mama, I read your blog occasionally--I think our kids are similar in age (mine are 2 boys, 14 months and almost 4). When you figure out the trick to a calm dinnertime prep strategy and lovely dinners as a it please! Your post sounds a lot like my house too! My husband and I long for the good ol' days of leisurely cooking and lovely dinners over wine and dimmed lights... hah!

Kelli said...

I chuckled when I read the part about scarfing your food down before chaos erupts. This perfectly describes our evenings, and I always wish things were calmer, more relaxing and enjoyable. Occasionally they are, and I wonder what I did right, but it happens so rarely that I suppose it's just chance.

Sometimes it's good to know other people feel the same way!

The Ferriter Family said...

Karli!! I wish I could say dinners could be easy...however that is rare in our house. If you ever need new quick dinner ideas, I think I have come up with a few. I am always looking for quick meals, and short cuts. One thing that has helped. Cutting veggies through out the day...making the salad at nap time...crock pot the rice ahead of time...the list goes on...I feel a new blog post just for this would be GREAT!!

Sarah@mommyinjapan said...

Relax dinners with wonderful conversations will eventually come. And when they do you will appreciate them. A lot.

One trick that we use is that our kids can't leave the table unless they ask to be excused. Usually we say no but sometimes we have stuff that has to be done right after dinner so at those times we say yes. But they still have to ask.

Anonymous said...

Ahhhhhhh, it's so nice to know so many other fams go through this--that sounds like our routine EVERY NIGHT, except I have to admit, sometimes the cleaning up just has to wait until morning because Emma and/or Evan just need the attention and when they are asleep, it's all I can do to keep my own eyes open so that's one thing I've had to let go of is expecting to go to bed with all things clean and put away. Sometimes it just doesn't happen and I've had to just laugh and know I'm not perfect. (No surprise there.) Thanks for always posting things that remind us all that we are not alone and we all experience such similar things and it's OK. --Stefanie

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