BY KATHY P. BEHAN
Well, I made it through another dinner. This isn’t much of an accomplishment for most people, but for me, this is a considerable feat. I never thought my life would come to this. But then again, I never stopped to consider what dinnertime would be like with three hungry, grouchy, tired and generally overly souped-up kids around.
There are many logistical problems with this time of day. But by far, the most difficult part of dinner is trying to prepare, cook and serve food while simultaneously trying to peel my 1-year-old off my leg, and ref nonstop arguments between the boys. When the kitchen chaos is at its peak, I’m often tempted to look for a hidden camera that must be strategically placed in the room. This just can’t be real life. It has to be some wild scene created for a made-for-TV movie.
I hate to admit it, but unfortunately, I’m part of the problem. To be blunt, I’ve had it. I’m a great mother until about 6 p.m., but after that, watch out. My patience, good humor and energy levels are all running on empty. I’m ready for the second shift to take over, but he won’t arrive for another couple of hours.
All I want is a little peace and quiet — and to eat my dinner while it’s hot. Doesn’t sound too unreasonable does it? The kids though have an entirely different agenda. They seem to have temporarily banded together to plot their mother’s mental demise. Yelling at decibel levels that shake windows, trying out new karate moves on each other, hurling toys and books, destroying each other’s projects. … I feel as if I’m caught up in a hurricane of destruction.
Creative — and nonviolent — solutions to this wildness escape me. As if by magic, sanity returns (at least temporarily). My mission becomes clear: Feed these children by whatever means are necessary. After all, everyone knows mothers are Superwomen capable of doing impossible feats and multiple tasks all in a single bound. Being a mom, I must possess the traits necessary to handle the dreaded dinnertime. I just have to harness my “powers.”
With that in mind, I plan my strategy. First, to simplify life I attempt a novel concept — all of us eating the same meal. The fare, that ever-popular hot dog, macaroni and cheese plus vegetable combo. I’ve never been known for my culinary expertise, so at least I’m spared the gourmet chef pressure and therefore, guilt that many of my friends experience. Low standards really help at a time like this.
Next, I decide to divide and conquer. One child is banished to his room, the other downstairs and the third is made captive in her high chair, distracted and contented with a slice of cheese. So far, so good.
Time to cook
Let the cooking begin! While the water boils, the vegetables simmer, the hot dogs cook, I set the table. Son No. 2 enters the room and complains that he can’t get the laser to fit in his action figure’s hand. Without missing a beat I secure said weapon in Spiderman’s hand, and turn back to the stove. Screams from child No. 3, who has finished her cheese and is ready for her next course, interrupt once again. Luckily the vegetables are ready, so I quickly butter them, place them in a bowl and give them to the baby.
I continue to check on the progress of the remainder of the dinner, and notice that son No. 1 has snuck by me into the room of son No. 2 and has chosen this inopportune moment to take back the action figures that he had loaned his brother. A loud fight ensues. After putting the boys in time out, I begin dishing out the meal when child No. 3 decides she’s not quite desperate enough to eat these vegetables, and hurls them onto the ground.
On hands and knees, I search for and clean up the mashed sticky peas that now cover one third of the kitchen floor as my daughter decides that she is desperate for something to eat, and begins an ear-shattering wail.
The boys decide they’ve been patient enough and want their dinner NOW. Hopping to my feet, and mashing a dozen peas in the process, I dish up and bring them their dinners.
“I hate peas!” complains one.
These noodles are sticking together, Mom,” says the other, while the wailing continues from the third.
Ignoring the boys, I fix and give the baby her dinner and sit down to eat my own.
“You forgot the milk, Mom!”
“Yeah, I’m thirsty too.”
Trips to the refrigerator, glass cabinet and back to the table. Resume eating. Cease eating; wetness is seeping onto my pant’s leg. Son No. 2 has spilled his milk and is watching in mute fascination as the puddle spreads out and drips from the table onto his mother.
The rest of the meal and the massive clean up that follows, continue in basically the same unrelenting and extremely frustrating fashion.
After all this chaos and commotion, it’s hard to think of anything positive about this experience. OK, I’ll try. Well the kids are fed, they even seemed to enjoy their meal, and we all lived through the experience.
And one more thing, the best part of all — it’s over until tomorrow night.
Kathy P. Behan, a mother of three, is a nationally published freelance writer, specializing in health and family issues.