One thing I’ve learned from being a mom is that dinner time for me is the hardest part of my day. I will gladly take the hectic morning rush over the late afternoon/early evening tantrums. Typically at this point in the day Eli is starting to get fussy as his bedtime approaches and Nate is exhausted from a full day at school which means by the time dinner rolls around, I’ve had to deal with at least two to three massive meltdowns and unfortunately for me, Kurt is commuting home at this time so I’m on my own dealing with them until he walks through the door. My mood is always one of borderline hostile because although I know he knows what I’ve dealt with, he – to no fault of his own – hasn’t been there to witness their behaviour first-hand which leaves me feeling resentful that he gets to hug and love on them while I’m still demanding that they finish their dinner but also feeling guilty because I’ve also caused their tired and hangry moods to escalate throughout the evening.
A few weeks after Nate started school, I had read this article written by Scary Mommy talking about how she feeds her kids dinner at 3 pm to avoid them constantly snacking up until dinner and I quickly realized that was exactly what I was allowing Nate and Eli to do. Nate’s bus gets in at exactly 3:48 pm and by the time we’re home it’s almost 4; from that point on until dinner all I hear is “I’m hungry. I have a snack please?” followed by a pouty lip and puppy dog eyes. Nate has always been a pretty picky eater so to appease him and because I didn’t want to deal with hysterics, I would always say yes. But one snack would quickly turn into three which became four and sometimes even five different snacks before dinner was even ready. Now these snacks weren’t always “junk food” but they definitely weren’t what I would consider a substantial dinner and because he had now filled up his belly with various items, he NEVER wanted to eat his dinner. It did not matter what I made, he would refuse to eat it because “I full Mommy. I too full to eat!” and then you guessed it, right before bed he’d be begging us for another snack because now two hours later he was hungry again.
Now, I’m sure you’re thinking “well why didn’t you just give him his dinner then?” and believe me when I say we tried. We would tell him that his options were to eat his dinner or have a glass of milk and that was it but rarely would he actually choose his dinner and therefore; he would occasionally wake up in the middle of the night hungry again. After reading this article I decided to try it out and just see if it made any improvements to my evening routine. Now instead of getting home and loading the boys up on snacks so I can survive until bedtime, I give them one small food item (typically a Bear Paw or a few pita chips) and then immediately start preparing their dinner. I will also start prepping whatever it is that Kurt and I are going to have at this time too if it’s different than the boys. I usually have everything done and ready to eat by 4:30 pm at the latest which is perfect on the days that Nate also has jiu-jitsu at 5:30. I’ve also noticed an improvement in my mood when Kurt walks through the door as well because I haven’t spent the last two hours yelling at the boys to stop whining or arguing with them (Nate) that dinner will be ready soon. Of course this doesn’t mean that Kurt eats alone every night; depending on the day (like jiu-jitsu days) I will eat with the boys but more often than not, I will wait until Kurt gets home and we can have dinner together while the boys play. Once we’ve finished eating and everything has been cleaned up or we’ve come home from jiu-jitsu, the boys will get a small snack prior to bedtime and then that’s it for the night. I used to laugh at the thought of having dinner before 5 pm but since having kids, especially one that is school aged, my whole thought process has changed. This one simple article has literally helped save my sanity! Of course, not every evening is perfect and yes, I do still battle with them to eat their dinner on occasion but compared to how things used to be, this is a huge improvement and so I’ll take it as a “mom win”!
Photos by: Autumn Leaf Photography