I’ve had one of those weeks (months really, but that sounds so pathetic) when life has been so busy I’ve literally had to write down what I’m doing hour-by-hour just so I can ensure I am where I am supposed to be at the right time. Today I’ve already done four errands, attended a few meetings, came home to write for a few hours, and then I have another meeting tonight. And guess what? I have no idea what I’m going to serve for dinner. Again. You’d think that being insanely busy would encourage me to plan a few meals ahead of time or at least make a weekly menu. You’d think that, but you’d be wrong.
I have to admit, out of all the responsibilities of parenthood, the one I loathe most is feeding my children. In fact, parenting could be a much more enjoyable experience if kids were more like pets and you could place a bowl of food and water on the floor (okay, fine, the table) and let them do their thing. In fact, that’s one of the best features of our chickens: I fill their feeder up every few days and sprinkle some tasty food scraps on the ground, and they fill themselves up. They also supplement their fab diet ingesting fat earthworms that wiggle just below the surface of the soil. Even though those suckers are high in protein, I can’t convince my children to try them.
I do not understand how we can live in a society that has a working space station, has mapped the human genome, has figured out how to power vehicles using corn, not to mention has created an electronic device roughly the size of a credit card that can be a phone, computer, iPod, photo album, and wireless internet, but no one—no one—has invented a way to only feed the children once a day (weekly would be even better). They make similar devices for plants for heaven’s sake, why not people? Perhaps a slowly dissolving stick you can jam in a kid’s ear that is activated every time they shower. It could deliver all the essential nutrients a growing kid needs, and possibly even come in a variety of smells. Willy Wonka had a prototype, why isn’t R&D on this?
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want the little darlings to starve. But there has to be an easier way to get the job done than actually cutting, assembling, preparing, cooking, and locating food for them seventeen times a day. And be honest, that’s about how often they eat. Breakfast cereal has to be the closest thing to a perfect food. It’s fortified with essential vitamins and minerals. That cup of milk takes care of bones and teeth. And most times, the cereal comes with a toy. A 17.5 oz box of heaven. As long as I have a bit of milk and a box of cereal, we are okay.
In an effort to save time (and my sanity) I decided on cereal for dinner. Cereal for dinner is the new take-out. They actually have entire restaurants dedicated to serving only cereal, so why should I feel guilty about it? I set the table. Three bowls, three spoons, one box of Chex, and…
No milk, no milk, no milk. Assessing my cupboards for other options, I found:
No bread, no peanut butter. No juice, no eggs, no cheese.
One soft, wrinkled apple. One slice of shiny, rainbow lunch meat. A can of beer. Food poisoning and under-age alcohol consumption do not a dinner make. I may be mediocre, but even I have limits.
The thought of loading up my children going to the very large supermarket to buy one pathetic gallon of milk when I am already pressed for time (and sanity, have I mentioned that?) made me want to vomit. What’s a desperate mom to do? Order pizza (again)? Frozen waffles? Spaghetti for the hundredth time?
I remember how I thought motherhood would be; me creating steaming plates of Thanksgiving-worthy food every evening while my family sat around the table, calmly discussing their day. My children would compliment the butternut squash risotto, my husband would ask where I learned to cook such succulent pork roast. Dinners would be well rounded and colorful. Desserts would be berry crumbles and plum tarts ala mode.
Yeah, I know. Quit laughing.
Life isn’t like that. Our family’s activities at night frequently prevent us from eating together. Butternut squash risotto never made it to the table, being replaced by my children’s favorites of chicken pot pie, grilled cheese sandwiches, and tomato soup. Dinners are not always well rounded, and many times they aren’t that colorful. My kids have informed me, they hate cooked fruit. My goal, these days, is just to make sure they didn’t go to bed hungry. How’s that for survival mode?
Despite me and my lack of enthusiasm for cooking dinner, my children are still growing. The doctor has informed me that they have all made forward progress on the height and weight charts. My kids do eat a variety of fruits and veggies, mostly because we grow a lot of them during the spring and summer, and it’s what I put on the table. Now that school has started and our schedules are out of hand once again, I guess I should ante-up and plan a weekly menu.
Do you make dinners for your family on-the-fly or do you plan out the week? What’s your favorite go-to emergency meal? (I’m needing more suggestions!) And, if you know where I could get some once-a-week food sticks for my children, please share!
Rachel Vidoni is a professional writer and blogger and former classroom teacher. She is a mediocre mother to three pretty neat kids. You can follow her humor and family blog at www.eastcoastmusings.blogspot.com. You might not be a better parent after reading her blog, but you will feel like one.