Dinnertime is a wonderful time to come together as a family. Yet I am sure many families would report the hours between 5 and 8pm as being the most stressful of the day. Everyone is hungry and grumpy, dinner has to be made, last minute tasks need to be completed before the day is over and the new one begins.
In an ideal world, our dinner routine would go like this:
Dinner prep is already done because I did it at naptime. I pop something in the oven and read books with Mazen while it cooks. Matt comes home and we all sit down at the table just in time for us all to get hungry – at 6pm. Everyone cleans their plates. Bath time follows.
On the rare occasion, the above actually does happen. Thank you crockpot and rice cooker!
I thought I would share how our family dinners really go down…an honest, real day:
Mazen begins to whine at my feet, a sure sign he is ready for dinner. When I ask him if he is hungry, he does the sign for “more,” which means food. Luckily I am usually armed with leftovers from the day before or prepped food in the fridge so I can have Mazen’s meal ready in just a few minutes. Matt and I don’t want to eat at 5pm but Mazen does, so we try to split his in half. We call this First Dinner because he often has more with us at the table for Second Dinner. Sometimes he eats more with us and sometimes he doesn’t.
I give him tomatoes (his favorite), peas in parmesan cheese and butter (he eats some), triangles of polenta (he doesn’t touch them), a few leftover noodles (also not touched) and a few grape slices (half are consumed). I am holding off for salmon as his main protein at Second Dinner because I know he loves it.
Five minutes into his dinner he does the sign for “all done” and seems disinterested, so I get him back down. (I will say that half the time he eats a full dinner at this hour, so I never know what to expect!)
A little later Matt comes home and we take turns cooking
We’re having salmon, polenta and salads. I have the salads and polenta ready to go but the fish needs to be cooked.
Dinner is finally on the table!
And it’s a good one.
We bring Mazen’s high chair into the dining room
As I suspect, he loves the salmon and eats plenty. The rest of his meal is pretty much left untouched.
One his salmon is gone he does the sign for “all done” again and is off.
A few minutes later, he is crying in the other room for us to play with him.
The rest of dinner we are up and down between bites.
The hardest part of feeding a baby has been the unpredictably. Some might accuse us of making parenting mistakes in this post, but other nights we do the same things and the night goes perfectly.
We have found that it’s best for us (the parents) to eat early (like 6:00) or late after Mazen is in bed. This 6:30-7 time is the worst time to eat, but sometimes I just can’t have dinner on the table early enough! The divide is between a family dinner or an after-bedtime dinner. We do both depending on our meal, but our dinner routine could certainly use a little organization. I shoot for 6pm, but a lot of nights 6 comes and goes and we’re not quite ready to eat.
Mazen had a snack before bed – more grapes and some cheese. If I’ve learned anything in 14 months it’s that flexibility rules the roost.
What have you guys done to make dinnertime a happy time for all?