My Experiment – Week One Recap
I want to begin by thanking everyone for their comments and support of “my experiment” – eating together as a family at least three times per week in an effort to improve my three young children’s manners and encourage them to eat out of their kid food comfort zone. We have come a long way from Dinner #1 in one short week, which is definitely encouraging.
I decide to cook something that will appeal to all of us and make a delightful chicken pot pie with a puff pastry topping. I stick with the basics – chicken, peas, carrots, onions in a sauce baked with the puff pastry. They all like chicken and will tolerate peas and carrots. Sooooo, we sit down, light the candles (this generally provides excitement if I can manage to make sure my 3 year old son doesn’t singe his eyelashes off as he tries to blow them out, but my girls insist on them – in their mind it signals that we are eating together). Also, I have briefed them that this is our new drill – how this will be so much fun, we are going to eat together as much as we can, hear about our days, eat yummy grown up food than will NOT be pasta as much as possible, practice our manners etc. I dish out the pot pie, and also have some bread and butter and I think grapes on the table. As we all sit down, the kids are looking suspiciously at their plates as I ask them to hold hands and I say some form of grace which ends up having me ramble on about how lucky we are to be together as a family and have this yummy food and we all love each other. My 7 year old daughter is breaking my heart as this is always her favorite part of the family eating together – her eyes shine as she looks at each one of us as we hold hands and I fumble with my thankful speech.
Then all hell breaks loose. “What is this?” “I don’t like this.” Plates are being pushed away. The faces are as if I am asking them to participate in a Survivor-style food challenge. 2 out of the 3 kids are actually crying. About food. I hold back from telling them they are lucky to have food and instead we encourage them to try at least one bite – that’s all we ask. 7 year old daughter refuses and has grapes, bread and milk and has a fit when she is denied dessert. 3 year old follows suit. The surprise of the night? 5 year old daughter – pickiest eater and wanna-be doughnut seller – does the best job and has lots of bites – no complaints. She gets a tootsie pop and I let her flaunt it. I am proud of her. Overall, a hugely demoralizing dinner and my husband and I are depressed. As I lied in bed awake at 2:17 am that night- as I seem to be every night (is anyone else awake at that time too? weird.) – I thought about where I made my mistake. Of course it was my meal choice. I should have started with a crowd pleaser and not something with the components all mixed together. We need to work toward that. And then I remembered I was the child who couldn’t have my food touching each other. I wonder where they get it from. Well at least we started on this path and there is no turning back.
I would declare this outing a success. I prepare a “friendlier” meal – breaded chicken strips (chicken breasts cut in strips, dredged in egg and breadcrumbs mixed with some parmesan and broiled for about 3-4 minutes per side) and pasta with broccoli and a little bit of butter with parmesan cheese on the side. My 7 year old said it was the best dinner I ever made and could we have it every night. Everyone ate most of the food on their plates and had at least some broccoli. I was on cloud nine and there was dessert all around that night.
My biggest success yet. We had a make your own taco bar – I set up rice, black beans, cooked ground turkey, shredded cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, avocados and tortillas. The kids loved making their own tacos and gobbled them up. I also decide to retire the plastic kids plates (with Disney princesses, etc.) and let them use real plates – another thrill. Manners are improving – everyone is doing a good job taking turns speaking, elbows off the table, and remaining seated until excused. By the way, this probably takes all of ten minutes but at least it is a happy ten minutes. I miss my risotto, but maybe we can introduce that down the road – like week 12.