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Little J and I watched Billy Elliot the other day.
We sat down for dinner afterwards. Husband made a fancy frittata type dish that looked like something out of a magazine. Little J started with his usual scanning of the plate and eliminating what he doesn’t like, leaving him with ham only. When he pushed my last button half way into dinner, I send him upstairs. Hungry. Not because we did not have enough, but because we have too much.
We were brushing teeth before bed when he asked why he could not eat something other then eggs.
Me: Because that is what Daddy made tonight.
Little J: But I did not like it.
Me: Well I really don’t like eggs either. But I ate it all.
Little J: Why?
Me: Because I am grateful Daddy works hard and provides for us. I am grateful he cooks for us. And because I would rather eat then be hungry. You know, once I tried it, I kind of liked it.
Little J: Did you like eggs when you were little Mommy?
Me: Probably not.
Little J: Did your dad cook them anyway?
Me: No, I never had a dad.
Little J: Did your mom cook eggs?
Me: No son, my mom died when I was young.
Little J: Like Billy Elliot’s mom?
Little J: I am sorry. I don’t want you to die, ever.
We both cried for what seemed forever.
Then he went downstairs and asked Daddy if he will make eggs for him tomorrow.
Scene from our dinning room tonight:
We are just finishing dinner. There is a knock on the door and Husband gets up. Little J follows.
It is the neighbor’s girls. Husband returns to the table and Little J tells his friends:
“We are having dinner so I cannot come out to play. Also you cannot come in until we finish eating.”
My neighbor catches up with her daughters and asks Little J if he can pass something on to me. As you can imagine Husband and I are laughing at the table, trying hard not to.
“OK, I will give this to mama. We are having dinner, salmon. I am not finished. So you cannot come in.”
At this point I got up and invited Mrs. A in. Little J quickly had his last few bites. Kids played and had fun. We sat and drank wine. But honestly I have no idea what made my son so adamant about dinner time being sacred. Maybe he remembered the time I took the girls home . Maybe piggy bank is working. Or maybe, just maybe he is actually starting to enjoy dinner time.
I started paying my son to eat.
My childhood friend is a mother of two, raising her boys alone and doing an amazing job. So when she told me last year she gives each of her boys a coin at the end of the day to reward their good behavior, I marked it for future reference. Teaches kids to save, then invest wisely and prepares them for a dog eat dog world. Also, more importantly, a good incentive for being more tolerable to us who are filling up the piggy bank.
You all know what a show dinner time is in our house. That is why the other day, when we stumbled upon a blue clay pig, I thought the time has come. We brought the piggy home, placed it by the bed and set the ground rules. I for one like value for money, so I expect perfection throughout the day. But the deal breaker for earning a shiny coin is eating dinner with no shananighans.
Day one Little J was a proud owner of a quarter. Clearly my friend, in her infinite wisdom, was right. Next day, by noon, it was obvious Little J will get no wedges. Yesterday wasn’t much better. What changed thought was an arrival of a catalogue for innovative toys.
No idea why, but I get the best catalogues for children. Not that I ever order from any of these companies. Usually I toss them without even flipping, but this time Little J was faster. He has been reading it religiously for second day running and picked out a few construction toys he claims he must have immediately. Off course I seized the opportunity and told him once piggy is full, he can buy them.
Must be why this morning Little J used initiative and did everything on his own to get ready. Then asked for his coin. I told him he will get one after dinner. When asked what he would like to eat for breakfast, he said “Dinner”. Got to love my son for trying.
That’s why before he went to bed, with a perfect score for effort at the dinner table and huge minus for the tantrum earlier in the afternoon, I caved and gave him a dime. He looked at me and said:
“Mama now I have one big coin and one small coin. Big one I will use for the digger and small one for the trowel. Now can we read my magazine for bedtime story, so I can choose something else for tomorrow.”