First of all, my kids are not awesome eaters. They aren't those kids you see out at restaurants eating salads and steak and caviar and all sorts of grown-up foods. They like pretty simple, kid-friendly fare. But I don't really like to cook like that. And I especially don't like to cook multiple meals.
I used to do just that, though. There was a kid dinner, and then there was a grown-up dinner. Due to different schedules, we didn't eat together. The kids ate together, I sat with them and had a glass of wine, and then I would cook a grown-up meal for Morgan and me once he got home from work. This usually kept me in the kitchen, either cooking or cleaning, until about 9pm. Plus, we were eating way too late. But I didn't want to eat chicken nuggets or plain pasta, so that's just how we rolled.
I finally decided it was ridiculous. All that time in the kitchen, all those meals. Just crazy. I don't remember a single time as a child when I was served a separate meal from the rest of the family just because I didn't necessarily like what was on the menu. Sometimes I liked what we were having, sometimes I didn't. And that was fine.
So, sometime within the last year, I made a change. I now make one meal, and it's what we all eat. Lately, Morgan has been able to eat at the table with us a few nights a week. Those nights, we eat around 6:30 or 6:45. The family time has been really nice. If Morgan is working late, I usually eat with the kids and then let him warm up his dinner, and that works well, too.
I don't make super-fancy meals, but I do make things that I actually want to eat. Do the kids balk? Yes, often. But they know that what's on the table is what's for dinner. I don't make them clean their plates, but I do make them try a few bites of everything. I also make sure there is always something I know they'll eat, like fresh fruit, and maybe bread. My kids don't starve, and neither will yours. I think it's really important for them to learn to eat real food.
Here's the thing: I don't think there's a ton I do particularly well as a parent. But this dinner thing? I'm pretty darn happy with myself for the change we made on that front. Having everyone fed and the kitchen clean by 7:00 is fabulous.
Now maybe I can start working on better discipline tactics.