Is that title offensive? I don’t think so; it’s not intended to be, and I trust my bleeding-ACLU-loving heart to send up a signal when something is offensive. But if you’re the parent of a toddler, you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Let me set the stage…
It’s Sunday evening, 6pm. The time we eat dinner most days. Plates are awaiting my family’s arrival to the table. We’re having spaghetti and homemade meatballs, because toddlers love all things noodle and/or meatball related. I made a salad, but that’s for the adults, even though Miles will believe it’s for him as well.
Me: “Time to wash up for dinner!”
:::football related noises from living room:::
Me: “Guys! It’s dinnertime!”
:::football related noises plus “wheeee!” from living room:::
Me: “I MADE MEATBALLS.”
Miles: “Meatballs! Meatballs! Meatballs!”
The kid immediately runs to the table. I remind him we need to wash our hands first. My request has fallen on deaf ears as he attempts to climb into his booster seat without assistance. Evan carries the kid football-style to the sink, where we begin the process of hand washing, also known as “let’s see how many times I can stick my head under the running faucet.” We towel off and head to the table. It is now 6:07pm.
My family begins the joyous process of consuming dinner. Like I said, toddlers love meatballs and noodles, and guess what? So do adults. Some dinner conversation relating to the news and politics is interjected with comments like, “Use your fork” and “Would you like a napkin?”
6:12pm. With two meatballs and a handful of noodles done, the show begins. My son begins picking the diced tomatoes out of his sauce, and hands them to me in rapid succession. If I am unable to “hold” said tomatoes quickly enough, he will throw them in my lap. He reminds me of his newly formed dislike of tomatoes.
Miles: “Mama, no tomato. Mama, no tomato. Mama, NO TOMATOOOOO!” Flings tomatoes to floor.
Me: “Miles, if you do not want to eat them you may leave them on your plate.” Hindsight: Why would I suggest such a thing?
Miles: “NONONONONONONO TOMATO.” More tomato flinging.
You should know that my son has inherited some of my OCD tendencies. If a food is on his plate that he doesn’t wish to eat, he must remove all traces from his plate before he will continue dinner. He also got upset when a noodle became stuck to his arm after he swung it around his head like a lasso. He got even more upset when I laughed about it.
Me: “Miles, you may place your tomatoes on this napkin if you do not want to eat them.”
Miles: “Okay, mama.” I win, for now.
6:17pm. Miles attempts to turn his plate upside down, but this is thwarted my his mom’s super ninja dinner table skills. He pushes his plate away, and I remind him that mom and dad are still eating, so he can continue sitting at the table with us for a few more minutes.
Miles: (pointing to Evan’s dinner plate) “Mine!”
Me: “Miles, that is daddy’s dinner. What on the plate belongs to you?”
Miles: “Yellow plate.”
Of course the entire plate belongs to him. I remind him that he has the same dinner on his own plate. I hand him a meatball, which he happily eats. It’s now 6:22pm.
Miles: “Yellow bowl! Mine. My yellow bowl.”
Me: “Your dad’s salad bowl?”
Realizing that dinner is soon over, I slide the empty bowl over to Miles, thinking this will buy me ten more minutes to finish my own salad. Miles promptly takes the bowl and places it in on his head.
Miles: “Hat! Mama, see my hat!”
Me: “You smell like a Caesar salad.”
Miles: “I have a hat. Yellow hat.”
We play Bowl Hat for a few more minutes, then I unbuckle Miles from his booster seat. He asks to sit in the chair next to me, which I always allow, because we’re working on our “big boy” skills.
Miles: “Up. Up. Up.” He is attempting to climb on top of the dinner table.
Me: “Miles, on your tush. Chairs are for sitting. We cannot climb on top of the table, you could get a big owie.”
Now, one would think that reasoning in toddler terms would help them to better understand. And the people who think those things are either naive (raises hand) or have never spent much time around toddlers.
Miles: “Uuuuuhhhhhhuuuuuppppp!” There were 17 syllables in this “up.”
Me: “Miles, the rule is sitting on our tush in the chair at the table. If you are all done, you may be excused.”
Miles: “Up, mama! Up. Up. Up. Up. Up. On table. On table. On table. Up. Up. Up.”
I explain that everyone is all done now, and we can go play. I rub his head, only to question its slimy feeling, which reminds me about the Caesar salad bowl hat. Extra shampoo tonight.
Miles: “Okay, mama. Love you. Pirates?”
Me: “Yes, we will read Pirates. I love you, too.” And that’s why Bowl Hats are totally fine.
Most nights, dinner is a circus. If propping his feet up on the table is what makes Miles comfortable enough to eat his lima beans, then so be it. He’s only a toddler once. You pick and choose your battles, knowing that the trivial things just don’t matter (i.e. bowl hats) and the things that could have long-term effects are what we should focus on (i.e. why we don’t climb on tables). Eating with adults is a learning process, and I’m the first to admit that my own table manners could probably use some work.
This is also why we choose to eat dinner at home. If we go out as a family, it’s usually breakfast or lunch. If we’re feeling really adventurous/lacking good judgment, we’ll do dinner, but always somewhere loud and family friendly. On the very rare occasion that Evan and I go out for a nice dinner, it’s always just the two of us. It’s awesome to have some adult time that includes things like conversation, wine and appetizers, and excludes things like sippy cups, food in nugget form and saying “please” 127 times.
It’s not to say that Miles is poorly behaved, because he definitely isn’t. We just look at this from his perspective. If the average dinner at home lasts about 27 minutes, I’m not going to have him sit in a high chair or booth with me for an hour. That’s not fun; he can learn the same dining skills at home, and I don’t have to worry about him eating the crayons (at dinner, that is). The day will come, sooner than we realize, where we will go out for dinner as a family and no one will try to put a bowl of spaghetti on their head. But for now, we’re happy to enjoy those moments at home, in all their loud and messy glory.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to scrape the tomatoes off the ceiling.