Family dinner breakdown

Several unfortunate things happened as I sat down for a hard-worked homemade meal the other night.

First, I noticed my 6-month-old had begun attacking my husband’s arm while he shakily attempted to maneuver his spoonful of chicken noodle soup over the baby’s smacking gums and into his own mouth without spilling any on our baby’s bald little head. I realized it had been several hours since I last fed my son, and that he, too, was probably starving.

So I pushed back my chair, ran into the nursery and grabbed the nursing pillow so I could feed him and myself at the same time.

As I sat back down in my chair and laid the baby across my lap, I noticed a fairly big yellow spot on his back. Apparently, my husband was so ravenous from a long day at work that he only had scent for soup — and had somehow completely missed his son’s VERY messy diaper/onesie, even though he’d been holding him for the past 20 minutes. So once again, I got up from my chair, ran into the nursery for a fresh change of clothes and proceeded to clean my baby up while my food turned cold (not that I had much of an appetite after seeing the mess my boy had made.)

Finally, I stood up, threw the dirty diaper away, picked up my son and attempted to sit at my chair uninterrupted for the third time that evening. But, alas, halfway to the table I tripped over my older boy’s high chair tray, which he had chucked at some point during the chaos and went all the way down to my hands and knees, barely catching the baby and landing halfway on the couch.

Calmer mothers would have shrugged it off. Calmer, more patient mothers would probably have had a laugh, kissed their babies and said a silent prayer that they didn’t at least fall on THEM when they tripped.

That night I learned I am not a very calm, nor patient, mother.

That night, I picked up that blankety-blank high chair tray, raised it high over my head, and sent it flying across the room where it crashed into our steel front door. I then buried my face in my hands and had a small mental breakdown while my husband carefully took the baby from my arms, and tried to stifle a giggle as he inched his way back to the table to finish his meal.

After a few minutes, I composed myself enough to get up and do the same. About two bites into my cold banana bread and soup, my 2-year-old, who had been silently watching this whole scenario with wide-eyed interest, slowly made his way out of his chair and across the room. My husband and I raised our eyebrows and looked on with interest. He walked over to that high chair tray, picked it up, and to my horror, threw it as hard as he could into our front door. Glancing sheepishly over his shoulder at our shocked faces, he then ran to the couch, buried his face in his little hands and pretended to cry.

Mimicking his hysterical mommy. My son was mocking me.

As my husband and I stared at each other across the table wondering what in the world just happened, I thought about the Food Nanny.

Who is the Food Nanny? The Food Nanny is an amazing lady who has a show on BYU-TV advocating family dinner. She is the creator of the two-week meal plan that is supposed to bring families together for dinner, tighten bonds and create an atmosphere of love and comfort while enjoying a home cooked meal EVERY night made from scratch. The Food Nanny is my new hero.

I first heard her speak a few weeks ago at a church function and became enamored with her ideas. I made a goal that night to become the best homemade meal maker any mother has ever been. I had a renewed zeal for cooking and couldn’t wait to be in the kitchen with a cute new apron on, pulling fresh golden rolls out of the oven while my three men clapped and cheered and perhaps even shed a tear or two over how incredible I was.

Instead, two days into the first week I was the one balling like a baby. My dreams for a peaceful family dinner were crushed on the very first night. I felt like a total failure — and totally panicked that I had scarred everyone for life because of my temper-tantrum that apparently made my 2-year old so jealous he was motivated to try and one-up me then and there.

I don’t know what it is about trying to make delicious homemade meals every night, but it seems I echo fellow blogger Erin Stewart’s feelings very closely about trying to prepare a nice dinner: Either I feel guilty for neglecting my kids and making a gourmet meal, or I feel guilty for not having a delicious dinner fresh out of the oven when my husband walks in — like his mom used to make. I want to know what the Food Nanny did when her kids were barely old enough to structure a complete sentence. How did she do it? I still believe in family dinner, absolutely. I just want to know how other moms are doing it.

So, moms: How ARE you doing it? What do you do with your kids while you tackle the evening meal? How do you keep the chaos to a minimum at the dinner table? Is it unrealistic to think you can make a great homemade meal every night of the week?

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