Friday, July 2, 2010

Family Dinner

The constant refrain of dinnertime as I was growing up was, "Eat your dinner, Sara. It's time to eat your dinner, Sara. Stop talking and eat your dinner, Sara."

I, on the other hand - both as a child and as an adult - am more of the "wolf my food down so I can get on with my life," type of eater. So it is IMMENSELY annoying that my daughter seems to have inherited her Auntie Sara's attitude towards mealtime.

Gwen is not a picky eater and never has been, but despite this, mealtime is a chore and not usually a pleasant one. I've always taken the attitude that it is the parent's job to provide the child with a healthy variety of foods, and the child's job to determine what and how much to eat: I never want to battle with Gwen over eating "just one more bite", or bribe her with one food to finish eating another. What she eats is up to her, but OH MY LANDS could you PLEASE try doing it in less than forty minutes?

This is the conversation you will hear around our dinner table, approximately 243 times a night:
Gwen: (chattering endlessly, playing with her food, getting off her chair)
Mama: Gwen, are you all done your dinner?
Gwen: Nope.
Mama: Then sit down and keep eating, please.
Gwen: (continues to not eat)

I have actually started to pick up food from her plate and feed it to her as an effort to GET. ON. WITH. IT. Weirdly, she accepts this more readily now than she did a year ago, when it was all about eating independently. Now she *can* eat independently, but she prefers not to. Maybe she's just figured out that if Mama feeds her, she can eat twice as fast and still have lots of time to talk our ears off. Plus, her hands are still free for exploring the fascinating textures of rice and vegetables.

Anyone else have this problem? A few times, I have done the countdown: In three minutes, dinner will be over. In two minutes, dinner will be over. In one minute, dinner will be over. She has never melted down or otherwise indicated that she didn't get enough to eat. But she's still a skinny little thing and I hate to think of her going to bed hungry just because she's so unfocussed and I'm so impatient. Any other ideas how to deal with it?


Jen said...


That is all that needs to be said about that ;)

Rachael said...

We put a 30 minute cap on dinnertime, just as an arbitrary number. We sit and chat with him up until that point, but then we start tidying up the table. We gather our plates first, then his last.

So far, he's always pretty happy that dinner is over and hasn't given any indication that he's still hungry before bed, even on nights when he's barely eaten anything.

We definitely see more chatting and finger-painting than actual eating at dinnertime on most nights. You have my sympathies!

rheadeja said...

Certainly I'm not parenting them, but I know that sometimes my four year old nephew and six year old niece still get fed by an adult (me) at some family functions. I think they just get so busy and, we can either sit there forever reminding them to eat, or just keep sticking a forkful of food in their mouths every few minutes until they've eaten dinner....

Maybe 'cause I'm not doing it every day, but I really don't see it as a big deal to feed them if they're too distracted to eat....

Amberism said...

I'm a hardass. Eat or you go hungry. Dinnertime is within a reasonable timeframe here, too (about 30 minutes). Eating your meals at dinner time or going hungry would be a logical consequence, yeah? A kid isn't going to die of hunger if they don't eat enough one night.

That said, Steve is NOT a hardass (although comes across as one because he's the one all over them to eat). He, too, will feed them to make sure they "eat enough". This both drives me completely mental and is something I refuse to do because they are capable of feeding themselves.

What it looks like to me, as I watch this play out, is that my kids have learned that they can goof around, and then get uninterrupted Daddy-attention! Win-win!

So, assuming you know that Gwen just hasn't figured out how to get the adults to do her bidding, I wouldn't worry to much ;).

adequatemom said...

I love the advice and insight I'm getting from everyone - and especially the commiseration! So glad to know I'm not the only one who experiences this. Thanks, all!

Jess said...

You inspired me to touch base on the dinner chaos on my blog, too. I'd just keep doing whatever works for your family.


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