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Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Battle of the Greens: A short story dedicated to all the crazy parents that brave dinner ever night!

The smell of perfectly seasoned, perfectly roasted chicken waft through the kitchen. I breathe deeply pulling it from the oven and expertly navigate myself to the counter, avoiding the scattered “Thomas and Friends” set seeking to take me down. I fill plastic Ikea plates for each of my three adoring children with the perfect chicken and heaping (toddler sized) mounds of, steamed to perfection, green vegetables!

Joining my perfect family at the table, I put each plate in front of my children. My husband sits next to me. I see from the corner of my eye that he has pulled out the newest addition of Popular Mechanics. I feel slightly affronted, but he can sense the coming disaster; something I have not foreseen. I look into my children’s faces and then I know. My fork slips in my sweaty hand, instinctively I tense my shoulders preparing for what is to come.

      Across the table, my sassy 6-year-old, stubborn 3-year-old and mischievous 1-year-old are preparing also; preparing for the battle of the dinner table!

      Seconds later the 3-year-old hits the floor; wailing and gnashing of teeth ensue as I hear the cries of “yucky food” on his plate and he begs me not to make him eat it! “Well played, little one. Well played, I thought as I watched him rolling on the floor. I moved my attentions to the sly baby; he thought he wouldwin me over with that adorable manipulative smile of his, but I will not be deceived.

        “No, No, stop right now!” I shout as he slowly lifts his plate towards the salivating lips of our barreling, black Labrador. I elbow my husband, who responds without looking up from the magazine.

         “Stop that J, put it down.” What? That's it?

          I breathe out in frustration. How did this man know what was happening without looking up? Did this happen often? Did I block each nightly meal from my memory?

          Ah, another battle lost. The insatiable belly laugh, that could melt any mother’s heart, came from that small, yet intelligent baby’s throat. It fills our boisterous dining room as if to symbolize his victory. The dog was bent down lapping up all the perfect, delicious food. I feel a wave of resolve rush over me, I WILL NOT CLAIM DEFEAT I tell myself.

          I whip my head towards my unfortunate daughter. Her brother’s may have escaped, but this child, oh this one; she was not leaving the table without eating those green vegetables! That was the important part, right? She glares back at me, arms folded across her chest. I shrink slightly, wondering what could be running through her Kindergarten brain.

        “Look, sweetie,” I say kindly, hoping the patient mother fa├žade would encourage her to do my will. “It’s a tree, isn’t that fun? It’s a tiny little tree!” She just stares at me.

         “It's broccoli, mom.”  Blast! She’s too smart for her own good. I decide to take it a step further and not let on that she had me cornered.

         “Yes, but don’t you know broccoli is a special tree for fairies? They allow us to eat some every once and awhile. If we eat it we can become magic like the fairies!”

           For a moment she waivered, glancing back and forth between her food and myself. Then the smug I know mom’s fibbing to get what she wants smile spread across her face. I felt the heat rushing to my face, it was going to blow right here and now, even my husband had looked up from his magazine, waiting--wondering what I was going to do next. The 3 year old, 1 year old and even the dog looked at me with a mixture of fear and wonder in their eyes.

          “YOU WILL EAT ONE BITE OF BROCCOLI RIGHT NOW!” She looked calmly into my fiery eyes waiting for the other half of my rant, she'd heard it before. “After you do that you can have a big chocolate chip cookie!”

            There, I showed her. I smiled, watching her lift the broccoli/fairy tree to her lips. Her nose wrinkled as she took the smallest bite possible!

           And in that moment it was clear, I had become the foremost expert on child hood nutrition. If I were to coin a phrase for the proper way to win the battle of the dinner table it would be: “Nailed it!”

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