If you took a survey of moms around the world I am pretty darn confident they would agree that planning, prepping and cleaning up dinner for their kids, is one of the most challenging parts of their day… week… life??
After all, most days, conquering the hours surrounding dinnertime leaves me feeling like a contestant on the show. Nervous, completely exhausted and sweaty. But you know what? I’ll be darned if these kids defeat me at the dinner table. Darned, I tell you!
Every day I strive to train harder, be more prepared and plow through the emotional and physical challenges that suppertime brings in order to come out victorious, slam my hand down on that finishing buzzer and claim my reward (which is crawling into bed and watching Netflix).
Sure, some days are way more difficult than others. Many days end in very short tempers and not every meal is Pinterest worthy. Plenty of my dinners are nothing more than a bowl of cereal, a box of Kraft mac-n-cheese or a 6-count kid’s meal from Chick-fila-a.
But is that really defeat? Not in my book! Those days are still a major win because I saved my sanity and still fed the kids! Yippee! Everyone’s alive!
That’s right, I am an American Ninja Dinner Mom Warrior. And I am guessing you are too! A whisk wielding, oven preheating, vegetable chopping, water boiling, garlic mincing, onion sauteing and kid taming dinner mom warrior.
Don’t mess with me, kids, because Mommy’s got a knife and I am viciously cutting up these carrots for a salad that you will absolutely not eat. Not. One. Bite.
Let’s discuss some of the obstacles that are sure to be featured on the show:
Obstacle #1: The Interrogation
This mealtime challenge spotlights those sweet, precious children who wake up early and, within minutes of starting their day, are already grilling you on the dinner menu for that evening.
You didn’t think that preparing mentally and physically for dinner was only reserved for one or two hours towards the end of the day, did you? Oh, no. The obstacles start coming at you as soon as the kids get out of bed.
Interrogation questions may include but are not limited to:
- What are we having for dinner?
- Is that it?
- What else are we having?
- Can we please have something other than chicken? We had chicken last night.
- Can you make something different?
- Are we having broccoli?
- How are you going to cook the broccoli?
- Are you going to cook it the way Grandma cooks it?
- Are we having bread?
- Can you leave the butter off my bread and only toast it a little bit?
- Can we have a dessert if we eat it all?
- How much of it do I have to eat to get a dessert?
- How many bites do I have to take?
- What are we having tomorrow night?
- What about the night after that?
- Can we go to McDonald’s for dinner sometime this week?
- When do we get to spend the night with Grandma again?
My best advice? Answer the first question and any follow up questions with, “I don’t know,” or, “I haven’t decided yet.” That should at least slow down the questioning if not stop it all together.
Obstacle #2: Grocery Gauntlet
At some point in time you will actually have to go into a store to buy dinner food with your children.
Okay… take a deep breath. You can do this. You is smart. You is kind. And you is perfectly capable of seeking out and paying for the food your family needs at the grocery store with your children in tow. Although it may feel like you are a contestant in the game of Jumanji, it is merely the mundane task of grocery shopping with your kids.
Grocery Gauntlet obstacles may involve kids that are whining, crying, begging for snacks and treats, squabbling with their siblings and/or hanging off the side of the grocery cart and nearly (or successfully) toppling it over.
It may also include a distracted and flustered mom who accidentally rams the over-sized race car cart made for kids into a lovely display of cereal boxes or who clips the banana counter while trying to make a 3-point turn.
Moms, you must do all you can to maximize efficiency. Heaven help you if you are on aisle 10 and forgot the butter you needed on aisle 3. Get in and GET OUT as fast as possible.
Write grocery lists on paper so kids aren’t clamoring for your phone the entire time. Organize and streamline your lists so you can move smoothly from one side of the building to the next, crossing things off as you go.
Or, if you want to be an expert level Ninja Dinner Mom know that most supermarkets now offer online ordering where someone will shop for you and bring it out to your car! This was my life this past summer as I vowed I would no longer set foot into a grocery store with all three of my kids.
Obstacle #3: Toddler Tornado
Families with children between the ages of 1 and 3 have the luxury of enduring this palm sweating obstacle in which the toddler of the house crawls on, up and over every surface, unrolls the toilet paper, drinks out of the dog bowl, hangs off of your leg, tries to poke their baby sibling in the eyeballs, empties the Tupperware cabinet, colors on the walls, colors every inch of their body, colors on the baby, pulls out every last item of clothing from their dresser, drags all their toys into the kitchen and/or screams bloody murder all while you are attempting to get dinner on the table.
Extra fun is had by all if the toddler is potty training and either has an accident on the floor, has an accident in their pants, needs help pulling clothing down and up and/or attempts to wipe their own booty.
A close relative of this obstacle is the Inconsolable Infant featuring a fussy or needy baby who demands to be held or fed throughout all of the dinner prep and who will not let you sit down to eat your food.
Can I just say with not one drop of guilt in my heart that all my kids are now four and older and I AM SO GLAD THIS PHASE IS OVER!
My best advice is to make Dad take them outside or reserve the day’s screen time for the dinner prep hour. Or, confine them to a safe place such as a play pen so the can explore independently. For the livelier and more determined toddlers, place them behind an electrically charged, barbed-wire fence. No… just kidding. Sort of.
For the infants, baby carriers are good or just strap them into a bouncy seat that’s on the ground and let them fuss. They’ll live.
Obstacle #4: Snack Attack
This obstacle takes place around 5:45pm (just minutes away from mealtime) and features several small children attempting to silently weasel their way into the pantry to sneak snacks even though you have already declared that, “THE KITCHEN IS CLOSED UNTIL DINNER,” and “SNACK TIME IS OVER.”
To overcome Snack Attack, keep a NERF gun next to the stove so you can deftly pelt tiny rear ends and tiny arms as they reach for the Goldfish. Or just shoot them the deadliest “if looks could kill” eyes you can muster and shake your spatula at them in a threatening manner.
Obstacle #5: “Helping” Hands
Has anyone else experienced a wave of anxiety shooting up your spine when your precious child shuffles into the kitchen and innocently asks, “Mommy, can I help you?”
Nothing will bring my thoughts down to a toddler’s level faster than this.
Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo. Leave Mommy alone. I want to do it ALL… BY… SELF.
Alright, here is the deal, even though it is JUST SO DANG MESSY AND SLOW, I really do think kids learning how to cook and help in the kitchen is important and can be a sweet time of chatting and bonding.
HOWEVER, after many failed attempts, I have concluded that I just can’t have all three (or even two) of them helping at the same time. I just can’t, you guys. Thus, I have instituted a Kid of the Day system in which each kid has different days of the week where they are welcome to help me cook if they want. If it is not your day then go find something else to do. Case closed.
You guys, there are seriously so many more dinnertime obstacles I could discuss. I will try and sum them up briefly below.
Obstacle #6: Swaying Seats
Some of the children (the boys) are absolutely unable to sit in their chairs the right way. They have only ¼ of one butt cheek balancing precariously on the edge of the chair. Because they are just incapable of sitting still, they start to sway, setting the chair in motion. Teeter, totter, teeter, totter. Splat! Kid falls, chair topples, food goes flying.
Obstacle #7: Veggie Vomit
This one is super fun. The vegetable hating kid at the table dramatically dry heaves or spontaneously spews their leafy greens onto the table. Awesome.
Obstacle #8: Chatter Box
This obstacle features a kid or kids that just won’t stop talking long enough to take one bite of food. Motivated by the dinner they are trying to avoid eating, they suddenly feel it’s of upmost importance to explain to you the world of Pokémon, tell you what all the misbehaved kids in their class did that day or tell you the 113 things they want for their birthday (which is still 9 months away).
Obstacle #9: Beverage Bump
This challenge tests your patience as children see how many times they can knock drinks over before you blow a gasket. Keep calm and have a stash of towels nearby.
Also, I recommend serving only water. That way, when a glass goes flying, you can put a positive spin on your perspective and look at it as an opportunity to speed-mop the kitchen floor.
Obstacle #10: Behavior Breakdown
This obstacle highlights children whose manners seemed to have vanished into thin air. Poof! They gone.
Potty language is off the charts. People are burping and passing gas like it is their job while dissolving into giggles over it. Complaints about the food are flying at you faster than a freight train. Kids have resorted to using their fingers to eat their black beans and no one seems to remember how to hold a spoon properly.
Fellow American Ninja Dinner Mom Warriors… we got this! We can chop an onion and help with second grade reading comprehension at the same time! We can simultaneously toss a stir fry and dance to the Moana soundtrack with our preschoolers!
We CAN butter a banquette and discipline an out-of-control toddler all at once! Yes! Yes, we can! Or at least we can keep telling ourselves that and fake it ‘till we make it!
Am I right?!
When all else fails, have a frozen pizza at the ready.
Fists up, chin down and solider on, mamas!
What dinnertime obstacles has your family faced? I love to read your comments!