My daughter is staring at me from cross the table and my son is looking aimlessly at his plate. The silence is deafening. They have one instruction to follow before we enjoy our night together. Eat the food on your plate all gone.
I hate what dinner time has become. I value meals together as a family and we almost always eat together but when the only conversation is the repetition of the words “take a bite” and “eat your food” I feel less inclined to circle up the wagons for mealtime.
I’ve stopped caring. If it were up to me they would just sit there until bedtime and if they still didn’t eat then they would just have to wait until breakfast. I’m done with issuing out reminders at fifteen second intervals.
Thank goodness for my wife to balance out my approach. Except tonight she is at the rec center so here I sit watching my kids offer up every excuse known to man while I try things my way.
First they were just being silly and playing, having too much fun to worry about eating. I repeated our table rules. “Sit in your chair. No playing. And eat your food.” It got to the point though where I finally had to issue a Stop Talking notice, that’s when the silent standoff began.
“Daddy, I have to tell you something”
“No Ella you need to eat your food”
“This chicken is very chewy. Because that’s what I needed to tell you”
Ten more minutes of silence go by and they have taken maybe a half a bite each.
“I told you this is a bad dinner, dad.”
“You still need to eat it.”
“My tummy hurts”
“Do you want a snack instead? Then your tummy doesn’t hurt, now eat”
More silence follows.
My son just fell asleep at the table…
We have been sitting here for over an hour. I don’t know what to do. They are both just moving the food around on their plate or staring out the window. I really hate it when our nights end like this, but I feel like I need to teach them that sometimes you just have to grin and bear it. Sometimes you don’t get exactly what you want. That part of life is doing what you don’t like so you can enjoy the things you do like.
I started to wonder if this was really worth it. There is a point as a parent when you just have to decide to go all in and call their bluff. Tonight was that night.
Pax was the first to finish and put his plate in the sink. Now Ella sat at the table alone and tears flowed. I agreed to sit with her which helped her calm down.
Yet now that they’re almost done and we’ve let the evening slip by us in silence I wonder if there are any real winners from this lesson tonight. They didn’t get to enjoy playing the games they love and I didn’t get to have a laughing good time with my children before work tomorrow.