Dinner stresses me out possibly more than the thought of what college will cost when Monkey Man gets there. Or if I’ll be able to afford to even drive to the grocery store to get food for dinner because, sorry, this week the cost of gas is so high that I’m not going anywhere that these two feet can’t take me.
The thought of what I’m going to prepare the family for a nutritious and delicious meal has been cause for me to consider asking my doctor for some anti-anxiety meds. I don’t care about dinner for myself and thankfully the hubby doesn’t much care either. I’m a cereal or peanut butter and jelly girl. And I ate GREAT meals growing up – my mom made roast beef, mashed potatoes, chicken parmesan, turkey, stuffing, and kick butt beef stew (she rocks, but that's for another post). For me, the thought of figuring out the meal, having all the ingredients for the meal, and then putting these ingredients together to come out a certain way is just more than I care to deal with. That kind of time and energy spent just to eat? Cheerios and milk will do just fine, thanks. Throw in a banana and let’s call it well-balanced. (Now cleaning is a different story. I'll happily clean a toilet before I cook a roast. I'd swap cleaning services for cooking services. I might be on to something. The old barter system. Any takers?)
I remember vividly a near-nervous breakdown I had when Monkey Man was about 10 months-old. He was happily eating solid foods for over 4 months. Life was going along smoothly in the pureed food department. He joyfully ate his apples, peas, chicken, squash, sweet potatoes, and green beans (all looking oddly the same except for color) served simply on a spoon while Hubby and I indulged in grown-up fare such as leftover cold pizza or cereal. When all else failed, there was always cereal.
Then I did it. I read a dreaded parenting book. I kept it on my nightstand to help give me heart palpitations just before drifting into slumber. It stated that at 9 months-old babies should be starting finger foods and any baby food should have texture and chunks. If not, the baby might refuse food with more texture as he gets older. Oh no, I thought. I ruined this child's chances of ever eating like a normal human being. My child might never pick up a fork, develop his "pincer grasp" or know what an actual potato looks like. He'll be eating liquefied turkey for the rest of his life and know no use for his little fingers except to poke at the dog's eyes!
Shortness of breath set in. Thoughts of standing at a stove and preparing a week's worth of family menus danced - no, stomped - through my head. I don't cook. Well, I cook, but that's if Boboli pizza and any skillet dinner that comes out of a box counts. What will I feed my child when Beech Nut and Gerber are no longer an option? I'm lucky if I eat an apple or a banana in a day, but Monkey Man was guaranteed 3 servings of fruit and 2 of vegetables EVERY DAY thanks to jarred baby food!
I’m happy to report now that Monkey Man knows how to use a fork, but frequently chooses not to use it because he’s 3 and has his own mind that tells him he’s not eating dinner that night. He also has a finely developed pincer grasp, albeit a selective one, that is excellent at picking up a cookie, but not so good at the broccoli. Fortunately, he knows darn well what a potato looks like, but prefers it crinkle cut with a little ketchup “dip” on the side. My mind is at ease because they are sweet potato fries.
I still loathe the chore of cooking, but I try. I try because: I want what’s best for Monkey Man’s health; family at the dinner table is important to me and take out 7 nights a week is neither healthy nor financially sound; and quite frankly, I don’t want Monkey Man to one day look back at his childhood dinners and want to vomit.
(Photo: Monkey Man is enjoying homemade whole wheat chocolate chip pancakes in the shape of hearts for Valentine's Day. Breakfast for dinner is one of my favorites. For some reason, it just seems easier!)