Have I told you about my dinner dream? Not the slumbering kind of dream but the wistful daydream sort of dream. Here it is:
Around 4:30 or 5 pm I make my way into the kitchen. The boys play independently or might even want to help and we make a work station for them at the learning tower. I pull down my recipe binder and flip to a recipe, perhaps an familiar one or something new. I gather ingredients from the pantry and fridge and pour myself a small glass of white wine (nothing too sweet) or open a beer.
If one of the boys is being my sous chef I turn on music or if I'm cooking alone I turn on a podcast. I spend the next half hour or so chopping, mixing and cooking. The boys set the table with cloth napkins and silverware. I might even have time to whip up a quick dessert as a treat for the family. While dinner simmers or cooks I have time to tidy the kitchen or perhaps to even sit for a minute and read or be with the boys. When dinner is ready I call in the boys and Chris from outside or from their corners of the house. We fill four plates with the same dish and settle into our seats. As we eat we talk about our days or what we're reading lately or interested in and what adventures are coming up.
That's about where my daydream fades. I love living in this daydream. Cooking from recipes! Eating the same thing! Sitting civilly at the table!
To anyone without small children these might seem like such mundane things that are everyday occurrences. But in our current situation, with two full time working parents and a one-year old and three-year old, they would be monumental achievements.
The current state of dinner affairs for Team Wharton is this:
We get home by about 5:40 pm from work and daycare. There is usually a request to play outside, which we try to accommodate. One parent is on outside duty and the other is on dinner and lunch processing duty. Because we aim to have the boys in bed by 7 we have to be finished with dinner by about 6:30. So, working backwards, that leaves about 15 or 20 minutes for dinner prep on week nights. So we have to hit the kitchen running and there isn't time for cooking from recipes. Our go-tos are quesadilla varieties, homemade mac and cheese with tuna and peas, grilled cheese and frozen veggies or quick roasted veggies, homemade pizza and quiche.
We usually eat dinner gathered around the kitchen island with Chris and me standing and multi-tasking, Dashiell in his learning tower and Cedric in his high chair. It often feels like a circus with Cedric trying to communicate that he does or does not like something and is impatient for us to figure it out. Cedric is rejecting a lot of food recently and hasn't taken to many vegetables and I feel that I always have a simmering worry about the boys' vegetable consumption.
Dash will get in and out of his tower and might decide he wants something different and we try to navigate his request. We usually offer dinner with cereal as an alternative but sometimes we don't want to have the battle and he does get to have the yogurt he wanted. Real talk.
At the same time we might be trying to finish processing lunch dishes from our packed lunches and preparing lunches for the next day. Some component of dinner always ends up on the floor flung by Cedric. Sometimes Chris and I split a beer but rarely even finish our half beer amidst attending to diner duties. It all feels very far away from my relaxing dinner day dream.
But I'm trying to remember that this, like everything, is a phase. With our youngest under 18 months there is sure to be a lot of rejected and thrown food. And we do fit in as many vegetables as possible - frozen chopped spinach especially is easy to put in quesadillas and smoothies. When I look at Dash's table manners and the range of his palette I'm reminded that we will get there and that it probably isn't that far away - and how I will enjoy that glass of wine when we do!