Breakfast, though supposedly the most important meal of the day, is not important to me. We all need to eat, yes, but provided I can sit with a book for at least as long as it takes me to eat and drink a cup of coffee, I don't care how the rest of the family forages. The Boy can, and sometimes does, grab food off a kitchen stool while he runs around like a wild thing. Momma just doesn't play until the coffee cup is empty.
My attitude is equally laissez-faire about lunch. During the week, of course, we're not together for that meal, but even on the weekends, I might eat standing at the sink while The Boy is at the table. Or if the kiddo wants to try sitting at the real table, even though he's not quite big enough to reach, fine.
But about dinner, I'm serious. Eating dinner as a family most nights is important to me. Every family should be together for one meal, I think; for us, I pick dinner. It doesn't always work. The husband gets delayed often and occasionally, I have to work late. But even then, the two who are home eat some sort of cooked food -- even if it's pasta and jarred sauce or butter noodles and peas -- at the table. And The Boy always has been a good eater. The husband usually will call if he's going to be late and, if I must, I can hold off The Boy's need to eat until 6:30 or so. We've missed a few nights, we've eaten dinners around colicky screams, but tonight was the first time we've suffered through a tantrum and had The Boy leave the table without eating anything.
A combination of things went wrong:
1. The husband, harried because he's doing the work of two people right now, forgot to call and say he'd be late. It was 6:25 before he left the office, and by then, The Boy's patience was wearing thin.
2. Because he sometimes does this, I assumed the husband was on his way home and just making a few last-minute calls, and so didn't go ahead and feed The Boy and myself.
3. The Boy discovered a love for cupcakes at the Pumpkin Party. Tired and hungry, he wanted a cupcake and was displeased, shall we say, when I told him no.
4. My patience, never available in large quantities, also was depleted after already weathering a minor meltdown over a block train that had collapsed and being very hungry.
I originally let The Boy flop on the floor with his blanky, nursing his grievances, but when he got up and said, "I go play," I put my foot down. He didn't have to eat, but he did need to sit at the table like a civilized person. And that, The Boy decided, was unacceptable. Cue tears and a red face and wails so strong and long they made him cough. Those led to guilt and frustration on my part, which meant I was using my nasty tone and slamming things when the husband finally arrived. And of course, that led to a hissing fight after we put The Boy to bed early -- his dinner was three-quarters of a cup of milk. And now, I sit here with heartburn that can be blamed only in part on The Lad squishing my insides.
One night does not a crisis make, I suppose. I'm not going to give in on family dinners. I really feel they're important, both for the ritual and tradition of eating together and to keep everyone talking to each other. But I don't want to give The Boy a complex about food. I won't force him to eat. How do you guys handle meal time problems?