This spring, the kid’s sports schedule is scary. Jammed. This is our last big splurge of time on organized sports before we hit the lake and do absolutely nothing. Camp fliers for summer programs arrive in backpacks after school. I’ve seen, and tossed out, everything from spending a full week at college pretending to be a college student, baseball training, recycled junk ark classes to science camps. I simply toss, and toss. We’ will balance these months with the nothingness of summer.
For now, I’m focused on the basics. Making sure the boys get their teeth brushed, to their doctors appointments, their homework done, and following our appointed sports practice schedules, at the correct fields. The conversations between my husband and me are strategic in nature: “You drop off at 4…I’ll swing by at 5:30… I’ll take the little boys so they can play…pick this up.” My husband is the heavy weight, doing most of the pick-ups from practice, stopping by the store to get the things I forgot, so I can get back home and cook dinner.
Tonight, there is practice at 5, practice at 6:30, and a one hour PT appointment at 5:30. The worst part about this schedule is what it does to bedtime. If someone is just getting home at 8 from practice, there is no escaping the huge upheaval of bath time and bedtime routines that knocks everything down like dominoes.
That is, unless, I serve them dinner at 3:30. Tonight, it was pork chops, lime-scented rice, and raw carrots. Done, fed, dishes cleaned up and counters and table cleaned by five o’clock. At first, I didn’t think this dinner schedule would work: the kids certainly did not want this to work. “What’s for snack?” they said as they slung their backpacks on the floor. “There is no snack. There’s dinner, and then dessert.”
For years, before this, they have spent endless minutes, mindlessly munching on crackers, cereal and Goldfish, stuffing their bellies, to the point where I believed that perhaps baked carbs was a necessary food group to the growing child. The need was insatiable. Simultaneously, our dinner hour has become the witching hour, as I dutifully prepare healthy, balanced meals, based on the preferences of what they loved and ate last week. This week, they want nothing to do with the very same food.
All over the country, families find it impossible to find time to eat together. Here we are, a family that does make the time to eat together, and yet our dinner hour is the most miserable hour of our entire existence as a family.
I have searched for that magic meal – the one that would make the turn the corner, but to no success. The solution to any problem is usually not the solution; it usually involves moving away from the place the problem exists in the first place.
So, I’ve taken the crackers away. Out of necessity, because of our crazy sports schedule, I’m feeding them dinner at 3:30; because there is no way I’m feeding them at 8. As soon as they walk in the door from school, there is dinner, without the Goldfish. And you know what? There is a magic moment right after school — a twilight time where they are just weak and hungry enough to do exactly what you ask them to do. They are too hungry, before the Goldfish, to retaliate. They assume that those Goldfish are just a few obligatory bites away.
Why have I never figured this out before? How obvious could this be? If they are stuffed before dinner, of course they wouldn’t want to eat. The truth is, I didn’t think this simple plan would ever work. I was wrong. The finicky eater, cracker-munching monster has disappeared. Rarely do the ask for the Goldfish, after all. I am not cowering around the kitchen cooking (while they’re eating crackers) worrying about how much they’ll eat. Or, how long it will take me to clean up the kitchen. They sit quietly and eat their dinner. Like good little, well-mannered children.
OK. I’m exaggerating. Today’s meal was accompanied by “You stole my pixie stick and you have to buy me a new one.”
But, at least they ate. They truly did.
Now, when Daddy comes home with the last sports player for the night, we feed him dinner, and the hungry ones get a bit more food, and then we have our dessert – the after school snack. Mind you, I would never have figured all of this out, if not for this harried spring sports schedule that pushed us against the wall. Isn’t that the way with everything? The bad always turns out into a gem.