Meanwhile in Colorado:
We were fed up with dinners. Jack had a narrow range of acceptable meals to him, and the range was getting smaller all the time. Foods previously enjoyed were now shunned with a side of whining. Dinner was a stress-fest of anxious questioning from Jack while I cooked, declaring he didn’t like and wouldn’t eat it before I even served it. During meals we tried all the usual tactics – modeling, disguising, offering, ignoring, negotiating, cajoling, bribing, and threatening.
Ben and I were sick of eating the same foods over and over, and sick of dealing with the dinner wars. After losing two disastrous battles (dubbed the Spaghetti Meltdown and the Teryaki Incident) we parents came up with a new strategy. The Dinner Game.
You start each meal with three tokens. You lose a token for each rule you break. The person/people with the most tokens at the end of the meal get a sticker on the chart towards a reward of their choice. The rules are:
Did it work? OH MY GOSH THIS WORKED SO HARD MY LIFE IS RENEWED AND THERE IS JOY IN THE WORLD.
I honestly can’t believe how well this worked. We’re talking like night and day different. Eating together is pleasant! Jack looks forward to dinner and enjoys it! I enjoy cooking for us now! Everything is so much better.
Let me add that I started a second change at the same time. I went back to cooking dinners from recipes instead of memory and improvisation. I spend time finding new things to try and making meal plans. I mostly have used the Blue Apron Cookbook and the new Mark Bittman “How to Cook Everything Fast” book.
We ate that last one tonight. YOU GUYS. Jack ate broccoli. BROCCOLI! I don’t know why. He tried it, grimaced down a bite, rubbed his tummy and declared it good. Then he choked down the rest of it with copious water, “This is just to help swallow it down to my tummy.” He doesn’t have to finish everything. But he DID. He loves this game. He’s going to make the missionaries play it when they come to eat this week. Sometimes we declare “special rules” at home, meaning casual, no prayer, watch tv, eat how and what you want dinners. He was sad when we did this on the weekend because it meant no dinner game.
I asked him to give the game a better name. He said “Dad and Mom and Jack and Sam’s Sweetest Dinner Game.” We’re calling it “Sweetest Dinner Game” for short. Feel free to play your own at home 🙂
I was washing up in the kitchen, dancing to some tunes, and it dawned on me that I was happy. Perfectly happy and content. Whilst shaking my booty and scrubbing a pot I thought about why that is.
And lots of other small things that add up to little smiles: fresh flowers in the home, Friday Jimmy John lunches, new furniture in the living room, a new phone on the way, comfy slippers and robe, playing with FitBit, I’m reading a good fantasy book (Mistborn), and on and on and on.
Sometimes I only write when things are wrong or crazy. This is just to say that things are really really right.
Today is unseasonably warm. Sam overslept, so his morning nap wouldn’t fit during preschool hours. I decided to walk to school instead of driving to get Jack.
Sam is an adventurous and playful eater. I predicted that he will figure out how to blow bubbles in his milk and do all the other naughty things that kids do (that Jack never did) and then teach Jack how.
The VERY next day: