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Anatomy of a failed dinner

October 5, 2010
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NINE. THIS IS THE NUMBER of items I prepared for Phoebe’s dinner tonight. Nine. This includes entrees, side dishes, snacks and even desserts. What it shouldn’t be however, is confused with the number of things that she actually ate–and let’s not even talk about what she finished. I used to be curious about why parents did this kind of thing. Clouded by my own “back in my day we ate what was on the table!” memories, I just sort of shrugged when friends lamented about their picky eaters. Now I have a toddler. Now I know.

In her defense, Phoebe’s had a hard week. She got two shots and a nasty little cold. Plus she has two new teeth coming in. Any one of these is a force to reckon with at the dinner table; all three basically means we’re doomed.

Also it hasn’t been confirmed whether my mom gave me choices at this age. Most of my fist-pounding memories are from the grade school era and it was my dad who enforced the Eat-It-and-That’s-the-End-Of-It rule. But I digress. This is not a story about growing up with strict hippies, it’s about tonight’s super supper flop.

For now I try to offer alternates out of courtesy. Phoebe doesn’t really talk yet so she can’t tell me what sounds good.  I can totally appreciate whether something hits the spot–or not–especially as a pregnant lady (and let’s face it, I also have cravings for all sorts of things, namely sweets, in my regular condition). She also needs to eat, you know, to grow.  But the other reason, the one I didn’t know about until now, is actually a matter of self preservation. If the baby goes to bed hungry, the baby will wake up hungry. And she’ll likely do it at a terribly uncivilized hour, say 5:30am. This means you will also be up. At 5:30. The extra effort is worth the extra sleep, trust me.

Knowing the risks, I did my best tonight and escalated toward proven favorites with each round. Sure, it was a gamble to start with with sauteed carrots in buttery orange sauce (failure) but I thought paring this new side dish with a known winner would work: a freshly made mini pizza with two kinds of cheese. It didn’t. She didn’t try one bite. No bites of either one. Out came the bigger guns: beans (failure), cubed cheese (refused) and a banana (approximately four bites before it was mashed through her fingers in a fist). Then it was time to get serious. Trying not to panic, I dished out yogurt (a blend of plain and vanilla with wheat germ). It’s safe to say this was the most successful item tonight. The problem is, this is the third bowl of yogurt she’s had today. And she only took a few bites anyway. So I moved on to my never-fail option, the Hail Mary of toddler dinners: applesauce. But I made a tactical error. Trying to boost the stick-to-your-ribs factor I added some mashed banana which was promptly spit out along with the applesauce.

And suddenly dinner was over. I knew this because the bib was torn off, arms started flailing, and an angry little face appeared in place of my little angel.

She’s in bed now.  See you at 5:30am tomorrow.

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