Every night I prepare dinner. Whether it’s baked chicken, beans and rice, cavatelli peas and broccoli, leftovers, spaghetti and meatballs, grilled cheese, microwaved dinosaur chicken nuggets and frozen veggies (for JD and cereal for me) or takeout, there is a meal on the table. The table is set with two plates, utensils, cups and napkins. There’s a pretty little bamboo plant center. “Dinner’s ready,” I call.
JD runs to the table and wiggles into his chair. I sit down and we both dig in. I like to chat at dinner. We talk about JD’s day at school and usually the PEACH and PIT of our day. Today, JD’s PIT was throwing a car at me and going in timeout for 10 whole minutes. His PEACH was getting an early Christmas present from Uncle George (Uncle Carlo’s best friend). My PIT was catching the car JD threw at me and realizing it could have hit my eyeball. My PEACH was remaining calm and cool when JD accidentally spilt my entire glass of iced tea. It was an accident and even though I felt my eye twitch, I didn’t yell or roll my eyes or TSK. We cleaned it up and finished dinner. Well, I finished dinner.
Do you have a table wanderer? I do.
JD sits down when I call him. Eats, drinks and chats with me and then he starts with the “I’ll be right back. I need my car.” He jumps off his chair and disappears into his room. I hear him rummaging through a green basket of 100+ cars. “Come back and eat,” I say. And he comes back for a bite and then says, “I'm just going to check on Baby Jesus” and he crawls under the tree with a wad of food in his cheek. A wad of food. Sometimes the wad remains for ten minutes. "Chew your food, bud," I say. Sometimes I squish his cheeks to get him chewing—no really. There's the breaking to pee—or poo of course. Dinner is an Olympic event in my condo.
At this point most of you are probably thinking, WOW Christine allows this? And well, I do. Some nights I enforce sitting until his plate is clean and other nights you can find me following JD around with a forkful of something, or letting him finish up while watching TV. Yep, TV. Sometimes I do, bite for book—this is 5 bites for an extra book at bed. Sometimes Santa is watching (and won't be bringing gifts). Sometimes I dial Poppy to tell him JD isn't eating—but never really call. The end result is always the same: JD eats all of his food. WIN. I don’t believe in sending JD to bed without dinner if he won’t sit still and eat, because that is just screwing myself. He’ll be up at 3 AM asking for chippies. This has happened. He's had chips at 3 AM. And let's get real—my last name is Coppa. Italians don't send their kids to bed without dinner—and biscotti and fruit for dessert. Come on now.
I know this is reading strange to some of you. You are not alone, my sweet readers.
A couple of months ago when Uncle Bri was living with us, he couldn’t believe that JD was a table wanderer and that I allowed it. He would say to me in a whisper, “Yo, what the hell is going on,” as JD got up to grab crayons and a coloring book while I enjoyed my salad. A few nights, Uncle Bri couldn’t take it and held JD’s cars prisoner until he sat and ate. And I didn’t care because he sat and ate. ATE is the key word. I’ve accepted that JD is table wanderer and that he's 4 and I don’t stress about it, because it doesn’t translate to when we're out to eat. My kid ate at The Capital Grille in midtown last week and was a prince! (He's also a bed stealer.)
As a single working mom—as a mom period, sometimes I'm really tired and hungry. I just want to sit at our little table, eat and maybe sip some red. If my kid is having a dance party in the living room with a mouthful of pasta, I'm cool with it. I'm surviving.
Do you have a table wanderer? Do you enforce sitting at the table and cleaning your plate? Do you ever send your kid to bed sans dinner?