Child Abuse or Parenting Genius?


Saturday was a looooong, busy day and by Sunday evening, after church, playing football with the boys, helping with two school projects and all of the regular activities that happen around here, my husband and I were exhausted!  In all of the chaos of the day, we had forgotten to take something out of the freezer for dinner and, to be honest, we were just too tired to make anything anyway.  We tossed around the idea of going out to dinner but, again…too tired.  We don’t live in a place where we can have food delivered so that was out of the question too.  So…what does a mother and father of three do when they are just too tired to feed their children?  I don’t know what you do but here’s how it went at our house.

I called my two boys over and told them the following… “Hey kids, there’s been an announcement.  Today has been declared Parent Appreciation Day which means that the kids have to make dinner for their parents tonight.”  

I was immediately met with sighs and groans to which I replied “You get to make what ever you want as long as it is remotely healthy and edible”.  They perked up a little bit after that. 

I suggested that they go in the kitchen, check out the pantry & the fridge and come up with a plan.  They have both helped with dinner before but never gone officially solo before, with the exception of the occasional hotdog or sandwich. 

Their father and I sat in the other room listening to the various noises of them rifling through possible ingredients and discussing their plan.  After a few minutes, my husband gave me the look of “Are you sure that turning the kitchen over to a 9, 6 and 1-year-old is a good idea?” 

Eventually it seemed as if they had a plan.  Our oldest was going to be the head chef and prepare the bulk of the meal.  Our middle son was the sous chef, maitre’ de and general “do everything else” guy.  He prepared the menu, the list of rules that he taped to the wall and cleared the dining room table for dinner.  He also provided our appetizers and side dishes. 

After several questions about how to do this and that, it was clear that they needed a little guidance in the kitchen and after my 9-year-old asked my 1-year-old to hand him a knife (in order to allow her the opportunity to help) I decided it might be a good idea if I went in to supervise.   He was just opening the box of pasta that his little sister had chosen from the pantry and was trying to figure out what to do next.  I did not want to steal his thunder on the planning and executing of the meal but I decided to provide a few suggestions on how to prepare what he had planned in order that I might actually have something edible for dinner.

He got a little frazzled when everything started coming together at the end and he needed to drain the pasta, turn off the pasta sauce, cut up the chicken patties he had chosen to add to the pasta, etc. but he got it done. 

Our middle son was frantically pouring drinks, trying to get his sister to sit in her chair, which she did not want to do, and preparing the “side dishes”. 

Finally, it was time to sit down to our meal.  Here is what was on the menu:

  • Appetizers – grapes and crackers
  • Drinks – chocolate milk for everyone (except li’l sis who got plain milk)
  • Meal – Wheelie pasta noodles served with diced tomatoes, chopped chicken patties, a tomato based pasta sauce and shredded parmesan cheese.
  • Sides – sliced cheese and crackers that appeared to have been stepped on and rolled over.
  • Dessert – our choice of cookies or ice cream.

It’s not exactly what I would have prepared but it was definitely edible and the kids were so proud of themselves.  My 6-year-old even told me that he would make us dinner every night.  Then he added “except for Friday because that will be my night off”.   He also said that we needed to keep the rules hanging on the wall so that we would all remember to follow them:

  1. Don’t be loud.
  2. Do not go in the kitchen
  3. Finish your food unless you are full.
  4. No more than three refills
  5. Stay in your seat.

I asked him if they had to follow the rules when it was my turn to make dinner.  He said yes so I agreed to leave them up for a while.

It was also great to hear my 9-year-old say “Mom, I can’t believe you do that every night.  That is hard work, especially at the end when you have to do everything at once.”  

Ah…validation…it’s a wonderful thing.

Will this change the way they eat dinner every night?  Will they eat all of their veggies and never complain about a meal again?  Probably not but that’s ok, we’ll keep working on it.  I think the first step to this goal will be to institute a regular Parent Appreciation night!

So, how do you vote?  Child abuse or Parenting genius?

Jennifer Kline is a wife, mother of three, resident of the Hereford Zone and Executive Editor of The Zone Magazine.  This is a re-post from her personal blog – October, 2010
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3 Responses to Child Abuse or Parenting Genius?

  1. Michele Wieland says:

    I LOVE this! A few months back when the stomach flu had me in it’s grips… My son decided to help in a similar way …. easy dinner of cereal for him and his sister and he helped to bring dishes in and put them in the dishwasher. He was working on this for less than half an hour and when done said Mom I don’t know how you do that all the time.

    Of course the memory is short lives…. My birthday is June 17th and 2 days later is Father’s Day so yesterday My son said Mom there’s a lot of pressure next week with your birthday and Father’s day with only one day in between them. He said he wanted the day in between to be kids day. I gently reminded him EVERY day is kids day…. but he did not agree…

    Maybe I need him to make dinner again 🙂

    Cute article… Thanks for sharing !

  2. Lynn says:

    That was a great story! Made me laugh and cry that I didn’t think of it first :_ I’m definitely gonna use this one – instead of ordering pizza!!

  3. Kris H says:

    I think this was a great idea! I ‘went on strike’ last night and my 7 and 9 year old girls rose to the occasion making themselves tacos. (the meat and beans were pre-cooked from the nite before)

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