Dinnertime warfare.

Yeah, right! Dinner time warfare.

Mealtimes in my home are a lively affair. Actually battlefield and carnage is more apt with a liberal splash of maternal misery thrown in for good measure. Before parenthood I never would have guessed that feeding my four little boys would prove to be so emotionally and mentally draining. It’s hard not to take it personally when the meals you have put so much planning time and effort into creating are met with “don’t like it”even before the fork touches their lips. The utter deflation when your recipe stalwarts are suddenly, overnight relegated to the Bin of Disgusting.

What do you mean you don’t like pasta? Or potato? Or rice?

Faced with the joyous task of providing balanced and nutritious “7 a day” meals (because 5 portions obviously wasn’t hard enough)to children who have all shown a distinct lack of interest in sitting and eating, it’s somewhat amusing that”What’s for dinner? “is the repeated question at the start and end of each school day. And yet when my dulcet tones ring out with the call for DINNERTIME, at least one of them will be mysteriously struck down with tummy ache, a full bladder, extreme fatigue or whimpering tears. And not that I’m suffering from paranoia but I’m beginning to suspect that a deliberate policy of hating their siblings favourite meal choice has recently been employed.

Then to rub salt in the wound there is the out of time, fallback meal option. The one that is always met with clear plates approval, the one that makes a mockery of all my healthy home-baked efforts; fish fingers and beans. As I sit there praying Jamie doesn’t pop up with a camera crew I smile ironically at the chorus of “yum yum’s” that ring out from my brood.
And here’s the very latest teatime test in my bustling household, begin by watching them push and prod their way through the meal, claim they are completely full up and then less than 25 minutes later listen to them declare they are STARVING. At first I thought it was a treat snaffling, bedtime avoidance tactic but now I’m beginning to suspect that the “my kids don’t really eat” statement has had its last outing.

I think I may be at the beginning of the locusts stage, where the cupboards are stripped bare within an hour of the big shop and the fridge door is left permanently open because they are coming back for more. Scary because the oldest is not even 9, that’s another four years before we even enter the twilight (teenage) zone, I might seriously have to consider becoming a woman of the night just to cover the food bill. Surely I could earn enough for a nice bowl of gruel, even with this post babies body. Ok, maybe not.

So, what have I learnt from the million feeding strategies I’ve employed over the last 8 years? Well, it’s really not worth crying over chicken goujons, honestly it isn’t, you just look stupid and the bread-crumb coating goes soggy. Children don’t deliberately starve themselves so worry not at a few missed meals. Rewards work better than punishment. Manners are never to be compromised. Small portions are better for small tummies and the ‘ole dinner-ladies classic, “no pudding unless you eat your main” rules. If nothing else it brings back some wonderful childhood memories of gagging on coleslaw.

My current dinner time strategy goes by a wall sticker that reads:

Today’s Menu, Eat it or Starve.

Well, it amused me for a whole week, however I had to smother a smile when my 5 year old (Ratbag 3) took one look at his plate, turned to me and declared “I choose starve”.

Round 3790 to him!