the managing of expectations

Confession time.

Yes. Again. Apologies, but this does seem to be a good forum for such things.

I have been slacking lately in the meal department. Purchasing and preparing meals is a household task that I have, until recently, embraced.

Especially since it means The Dada handles the laundry. Yes, all of it. Yes, I do realize how lucky I am.

But lately… a half-hearted hug is the best I could do. The Family has been eating more than our fair share of quesadillas, pizza, and assorted pasta dishes, garnished with the not-infrequent dinner out for good measure. Suffice it to say I was quite pleased with myself Sunday evening when I served homemade squash apple soup and homemade truffled shiitake parmigiano reggiano risotto in the same meal.

Smug. S-M-U-G. Smug.

As is the case in oh-so-many cautionary tales, that hubris foreshadowed my downfall, for The Kidling began to sing during the meal:

“You get what you get, and you don’t throw a fit. You get your risotto, and you don’t throw a fit.”

I give up.

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know your limits

You might recall that dinner time can be a struggle at The Kidling’s house.

What’s that you say? You weren’t aware of that? You thought The Kidling was a perfect angel who sits politely at the table, eats every vegetable The Mama places in front of her, chews with her mouth closed, sits still, eats until she is full, thanks me for the delicious meal, asks to be excused, then clears her plate without being asked? Let me remedy that misconception.

As I wasn’t really saying. Dinner time + The Kidling = Struggle.

I hope you are paying attention, because there will be a quiz… if I can ever get around to finishing this story.

The Family’s dinner time rules—that eating and conversation are the only two activities acceptable for executing during meal time—are frequently ignored. More often, though, they aren’t ignored, exactly. No, the balance is just disproportionately skewed toward chatter.

Lots and lots of chatter.

Chatter chatter chatter chatter chatter.

So one evening in mid-January when The Kidling paused her dinner, fork in hand, to tell me what was going through her head, I wasn’t at all surprised by the interruption

What did surprise me, though, was what was going through her head. On this evening, Alice told me, “I’m never going to point this at you. I’m never ever going to kill you. I never want to be a pirate… but I do want to find gold! I’m not going to steal it, though.”

At least she knows her limits.

the perfect quantity

One day last month, we had guests over for dinner. We ate something yummy and, as is often the case, we ate that very same something yummy the next night.

Leftovers, dear readers, are the key to happiness.

On night two, The Family sat at the dinner table partaking of our reheated goodness when Alice commented,

Alice: This is scrumptious!

The Mama: Yes, it is. It’s the same as last night.

Alice: Except I don’t have a large quantity of it. I don’t have as much of it. I have a good quantity!

Meal one: too much. Meal two: just right.

astronomy, kidling style

I’m not sure what they are teaching The Kidling in pre-school these days, but she appears to be far ahead of where I was at the tender ago of four. Case in point, this dinner table conversation from late last week:

Alice: Did you know Pluto was once a planet?

The Mama: Yes, it was once, but now it isn’t.*

Alice: Yeah. Who lived on it?

The Mama: No one.

Alice: (shocked) Huh?

The Mama: Alice, of all the other planets, how many do you think have people?

Alice: Lots of them.

The Mama: Actually, Alice, none of them. Earth is the only planet with people.

Alice: (again, shocked) Huh? But this is a very big planet so there is room for all the people. (enormous belch) Excuse me!

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* Fine, so this isn’t technically accurate. It isn’t like Pluto itself actually changed. The poor thing just had its membership in the planet club revoked. As such, a proper response would have been “Astronomers once thought Pluto was a planet, but now they know it isn’t.”

I sure as hell wasn’t going to tell Alice it is a dwarf planet. I would have been stuck explaining that a dwarf planet is a planet of abnormally small stature.

a compliment

The Kidling, like most children, is honest to a fault. And I love it. Her lack of a filter is always usually a beautiful sign of her lack of inhibition and ignorance of the notion of judgment. And sometimes it is little embarrassing. Sometimes it is awfully embarrassing. Hell, sometimes it is incredibly embarrassing. Sometimes it is even inappropriate for this blog.

Not often.

Regardless of whether The Kidling’s candor is a little embarrassing or unbloggable, it is always refreshing. Even when it bruises my not-at-all fragile ego. Case in point? Dinner.

The Mama loves to cook, but I don’t do recipes. Sometimes this yields a delicious, healthy meal and sometimes it means a meal that is, at best, edible. One evening just after Thanksgiving, I made a delicious soup (if I do say so myself). The Kidling, however, was not convinced. Taking a small bite, she smiled.

Well done, Mama, I thought to myself. She likes it!

Self-satisfied, I continued to eat my soup. The Kidling took another bite before offering her assessment, “I like it more than I hate it.”

Thank goodness for the not-at-all-fragile ego.

the no-grow blues

Oh, dinner time.

Do you recall Wednesday’s post on risotto? Well, there is more. Alice was shocked that I would expect her to actually consume more than that one, horrid mouthful. After a bit of whining, she did have two bites. I figured that was enough to ensure she actually did hate it, rather than simply hate the idea of it. So The Dada got her a bowl of cottage cheese.

See, our policy is if The Kidling tries her dinner and genuinely does not like it, then she can have something plain to fill her belly. One thing, decided by The Parents, that requires no preparation and isn’t terribly exciting.

Which is why the poor child got no turmeric on top.

Alice always gets a healthy sprinkling of turmeric on top of her cottage cheese because of this NYT article that brainwashed me back in 2008. And Alice loves it. Turmeric, that is. Not the New York Times. Duh.

The Kidling was not happy about her plain white cottage cheese. She took a few bites and then put her tiny little foot down. There was no way she would consume any more. So we told Alice to go to her room, because dinner was over for her.

And the shit hit the fan.

Crying, yelling, tantruming.* Tears streamed down Alice’s face as she wailed with despair, “But now I can’t grow big and strong today!” She sobbed, shaking every bone in her little kidling body. This was serious. We talked with her about her decision and the rules of the table. She repeated her heart-broken lament that this would be a day in which no growth occurred.

Then she hopped off my lap, wiped away her tears, and cheerfully asked, “Hey Mom! Can you play pet store after you’re done with dinner?”

So much for lessons learned.

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* I am well aware of the fact that this is not a word. If, however, you parent a toddler, then you know full well that it should be.