I always imagined mealtime as a peaceful, fun, serene moment in our house. My kids would sit pleasantly around the table and share their favorite parts of the day, while happily enjoying the meals we prepared, together, as a family. Then I had kids and discovered that, most of time, mealtime was a raging dumpster fire filled with dashed dreams and crushed hopes. In fact, I think it's safe to say that mealtime is the hardest part of parenting.
When I was a kid, my mom had some standard dinner rules: always eat together at the table, finish your meal, and use your manners. They were generally peaceful and pleasant. Now, I am not going to say mealtimes were entirely without their dramatic moments, like the time I had to sit at the table until I finished my liver. Spoiler alert: I didn't cave quickly, and was still at the table long after bedtime. That incident may have contributed heavily to me later becoming a vegetarian, essentially challenging my mom's traditional Midwestern ideas of what makes a meal.
So I wanted to do things differently when it came to dinnertime with my family, but it seems like no matter how hard I try I can't make everyone in our family happy all of the time. Between my husband and I we have five kids, so we have five different palettes and personalities to factor in. I have had to get creative to make sure my kids at least consume all the fundamental food groups every day. So, yeah, while I envisioned one meal satisfying our whole family, most of the time I end up feeling like a short order cook.
Like most things in parenthood, I am pretty sure we need to find some happy ground somewhere in the middle between "clean your plate" and "eat whatever you want." I'm just not there yet. No matter how hard I try, mealtimes are one of my least favorite parts of being a mom, and for some very good reasons.