Remember when we were first married? I never had the know-how or desire to cook before we were together. Once we said our vows, I took to the kitchen with gusto. I scoured the recipe books, shopped smartly for the finest and freshest ingredients, and spent hours preparing meals that were bursting with color and flavor.
Now, five years later, I still strive to provide healthy, well-balanced meals for our growing family. While our son took his afternoon nap, our daughter and I rummaged through the freezer to find a protein to be the source of tonight’s dinner. I found two small chicken breasts from who knows when. I then stared blankly at the pantry looking for anything that could be paired with it – a sauce of some kind, a canned vegetable, several half-empty boxes of pasta. I opened and closed the pantry many times, hoping that new ingredients might magically appear. But, I had to suspend my efforts upon our son’s waking. I looked to him for ideas and he told me that we should dine on salt that evening.
After our baby girl was put down for her afternoon nap and our son was occupied with his good friend Thomas the Tank Engine, I resumed my search for the healthiest, most flavorful, and pseudo-gourmet meal I could create. Every recipe I found called for an essential ingredient (or two) that we didn’t have. Meanwhile, my window of opportunity was slowly slipping away. Thomas was now over and our son, aggravated that we weren’t going to make cookies at that very moment, informed me that he “doesn’t like dinner.”
I decided to wing it and hope for the best. I dug some frost-bitten vegetables out of the freezer and began to sauté. I sprinkled them generously with spices. Then, our daughter bellowed and I had to turn off the stove to attend to her needs. Once settled, I took to the stove again. But our potty-learning son had to poop, so off went the flames. Twenty minutes and several books later, I was able to resume cooking, and just in time, as our daughter was now awake and wanting to play.
Two hours later, my dried out chicken still sat on the stovetop. I began to reheat it, knowing that you would be home soon and we could all sit down and enjoy this, um, delicious meal together. But, our meal wasn’t complete without sides. I returned to the freezer once again and discovered some sweet potato fries. Twenty minutes later, they were done and scattered all over the inside of the oven door as the tray slipped from my hands in slow motion. I made sure the children were safe in the other room and I gathered up the fries.
Dinner was ready only a few minutes after you came home. Pretty good timing on my part, I think… though it had taken several hours to get to this point. We sat down as a family, but our son decided that he needed to wear his winter gloves. Dinner began getting cold as you addressed his needs. Since the baby started hollering, I gobbled up my food as quickly as I could, not pausing long enough to even taste it. You helped our son take his first bite, which he then spit out and refused to eat. I said goodnight and brought the baby upstairs for bed. I returned to find both of your dinners uneaten – his because he, as we know, doesn’t like dinner, and yours because you were playing with him. And then, it was bedtime for our dear son who barely ate anything for dinner despite the several other choices that were, against my better judgment, offered to him. Your dinner remained untouched while we read stories, shared nighttime cuddles, brushed his teeth, and got him tucked in for the night. We each ventured back downstairs several hours later. Your unappetizing, unappealing, uninteresting dinner still remained untouched. I took it away and decided to serve you a healthy dinner alternative packed with vitamins, minerals, and whole grains. I hope you enjoyed your Cheerios.