Dinner Doldrums

Purposeful Parent Tip:  Offer a variety of foods to your children from the start.

I’m not sure when this happened, but I really don’t like cooking dinner. I can handle breakfast and lunch preparations without too much trepidation but dinner is a continual source of pain for me. I’ve written on this topic many times and I’m sure those of you reading this post are quietly (or not so quietly) saying, “Jen – just hire a personal chef!”

Believe me, the thought crosses my mind every day…right about 4:30 pm when the inevitable, “What’s for dinner” question arises in my house. My internal response is “Ugh…I have no idea.” My external response is typically “chicken” which garners the follow-up external response of… “Again?”

As I stare into my refrigerator and try to conjure up a meal for one adult and two growing children, I wonder if my mother felt the same way. Here I am being a wimp about feeding 2 kids when she had to feed six! Did she ever hate the dinner hour as much as I do? If so, I never heard her complain. While my siblings and I might have been tempted to say “chicken again?” we knew better. In my childhood days, you ate what was placed on the table and you kept your “again” thoughts to yourself.

The other day I realized how blessed we are to even have the choice of what to cook for dinner when there are millions around the world wondering where their next meal will come from. I take for granted a refrigerator and cupboard filled with foods when others have nothing. When we have abundance, we have the luxury of complaining. When there is nothing, we are more careful with our words.

This realization still does nothing to help me create a meal that hasn’t been served a thousand times before. And my lack of creativity has resulted in my children not being too open about trying new things. (Note to new parents: feed your children EVERYTHING because one day they will eat NOTHING!)

When some new food item magically makes its way to the table, I typically hear “What’s THAT?” from my children in a tone that my parents would’ve bristled at and I would’ve immediately regretted saying. This usually ends up with me promising gifts of money for simply trying the new food and gifts of more money if they actually finish it.

I’m certain some child psychologist would balk at this approach but if it’s one thing I’ve learned about my children is that they are motivated by money. It doesn’t have to be a lot, but the jingle of coin as a reward for everything from eating a new vegetable to cleaning a toilet to doing well on a test has worked wonders.

Dinner may still elude me and I will continue to wish for the likes of a personal chef to come into my life somehow, but I trudge on and do my best not to say “Take-out” when the inevitable “What’s for dinner” question arises.

I can’t be the only one who faces the dinner doldrums. What are some of your magic tricks? Please share!

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