How Do You Do Dinner?

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I was at a play date about a year ago, when another mom asked me this question. I was a little surprised by it – not by the question itself, but by the implications of who was asking it. Because this woman sitting in front of me – with her 3 school-age kids, high-powered full-time job, and generally impressive demeanor – surely this woman wasn’t looking for my advice on how to “do” dinner. If anyone had dinner figured out, it was her. This woman, by my estimation at least, seemed to have everything figured out.

And I was right – at least in one regard – family dinner advice wasn’t exactly what she was looking for. After I rattled off something useless – probably about me cooking and Roger cleaning up – she went on to say “I just always find it so interesting to see how other people are making it work, because man, it’s so hard!” She said this in an animated, exasperated way that made it seem like dinner was not at all hard for her. And yet, something behind her eyes made me want to believe her.

And why wouldn’t I believe that dinner is hard for her? It is hard! It’s hard for everybody! Right? (I hope I’m right otherwise this blog is going to be a very lonely place.) And we may talk about recipes, but we rarely talk about what that time period between 5 and 7 looks like inside our various homes.

For example, is anyone else cooking with a wailing toddler wrapped around their leg? They must be! And yet, night after night, I feel like a failure that my toddler isn’t playing nicely with one of his 13 million toys while I cook. Or perhaps you’re thinking that the two 6-year-olds could entertain him, except they are far too busy fighting over the red crayon or stapling each other’s arm holes shut or tackling each other underneath the dining room table – right next to the spot where the 15-year-old dog has just peed.

And to add chaos to chaos, at some point I decided that getting kids bathed and ready for bed was best done before eating dinner. So on top of trying to get a meal ready, I’m also corralling children into their various showers and tubs and overseeing that the dirty bits have been scrubbed, all while making sure that dinner doesn’t burn. And then at exactly 6 o’clock , Roger walks in the door and the children run to him for hugs which turn into flips, which turns into a full on circus act in the middle of the kitchen. But don’t mind me, I’m just trying to get food on plates and milk in cups with this screaming toddler attached to my leg. Carry on, circus family!

I sound like a martyr, don’t I? And that’s not a good look for me. But seriously, the chaos! There’s got to be a better way! Or maybe there’s not. Maybe this is just how it goes and these really are the times people are talking about when they say “Cherish each moment; they go by so quickly.”

Or maybe they mean the moments that don’t fall between the hours of 5 and 7. Because that would make way more sense.

Want to commiserate about family dinner and discuss ideas to make it better? Provide your email address below.

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