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Why I Don't Invite Anyone to Dinner

I'm not much of a cook. I make a mean chocolate chip cookie, but when it comes to food with actual nutritional value, I'm hopeless. I have three or four meals in my repertoire and that's what we eat, week in and week out … provided I have the time, inclination, and opportunity to make dinner, of course. Those three things are rarely in alignment.

We'd had a decent enough day (read: my kids took their naps), so I thought I'd throw on my apron and try to get dinner on the table by six when my husband waltzes through the door. I recently tried out this recipe and found it delicious, as well as ridiculously easy and toddler-friendly. (Triple word score! Woo!) Oh, my grandmother would have been so proud. I steamed fresh broccoli. I made rice. I even set the table! I had the fish all prepped and ready to slide under the broiler at five to six when my husband called and said he missed the bus.

So much for time, inclination, and opportunity.

As if they knew their dad wasn't coming home for another half hour, Jack and Molly started to whine on cue. Jack, because it was past his dinnertime. Molly because, well, how DARE I leave her in that bouncy seat longer than two minutes!

I threw a bowl of rice onto Jack's high chair tray, picked up the howling baby and stood fuming in the middle of my kitchen. I swear, Internet. I'm always hopeful that we can sit down together as a family, but something happens EVERY TIME I try to make dinner for everyone. Phillip is late. Jack refuses to sit in the high chair. Molly decides she's starving at the precise second we're ready to sit down. You know what I think about eating as a family? TOTALLY POINTLESS.

Most nights, making dinner is not high on my list of priorities. Phillip often doesn't get home until after six and Jack just can't wait that long to eat. I'll fix him something around five or five-thirty, sit down to feed the baby, and put off thinking about dinner until after Jack goes to bed. Many is the late night that Phillip and I scarf down leftovers in front of the television. It makes me feel very European, you know, eating dinner at nine o'clock.

We've been going through a rough stretch with Jack at mealtimes, and I have it in my head that it'd be easier if we all had dinner together. He could see how civilized people eat: sitting down, with a fork, having lovely conversation, all without screaming and thrashing around in our chairs. But why do I bother? Even if Phillip comes home on time I'm completely frazzled. Making dinner with two small children? Who can't or won't amuse themselves for five minutes while Mommy chops some vegetables? A miserable, impossible experience. The mother who can eat dinner with her family and not immediately head for the bath tub with a bottle of wine and a bag of chocolate chips has my total admiration.

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