Dinnertime is an interesting time of the day in our family. Unlike breakfast, which is choose-your-own menu from about three options, or lunch, which is generally predestined one way or another, dinner is the time when I make an all-out meal and expect my family to eat it. It's a chance to try new things, experiment with new food, and have some family togetherness. Joshua went through a picky stage, but he has discovered that most of the food I make is all right after all. Matthew eats anything if he's hungry, nothing if he's not. He's a classic 18 month old.
And then...there's Anna.
Anna has decided that she does not like anything but hot dogs, cheese, chicken nuggets, cheese pizza, berries, and milk. Well, and cookies, as you will soon see.
I don't know how she got this picky; we certainly don't cater to it. See, unlike breakfast, dinner at our house is not a request hour. I make what I make. If you don't want to eat it, that's your choice, but you are not getting anything else. I do not run a restaurant. I scour the Internet for healthy, kid-friendly meals. I don't make anything that the kids can't eat or shouldn't like. We don't let it become a power struggle with the kids, we just put our foot down about the fact that this is dinner: take it or leave it. Lately, Anna has been choosing to leave it.
Tonight I went to the grocery store right before coming home to make dinner, which as we all know, is a mistake, because if you go to the grocery store hungry, you will buy more food than you intended. Long story short, I came home with a sackful of cookies from the bakery - one for each kid who would eat their whole meal. (We don't do this very often at all; we're not a dessert family. Once in a while, though, a treat is fun.)
Dinner tonight was something we call Chicken Stir-Fry, for lack of a better term. It's just a little bit of olive oil, some cooked chicken breast, a bag of steamed frozen veggies, and a shaking of French's fried onions. Stir it up in a skillet, and bingo - dinner! It's pretty healthy, and the boys all LOVE IT. Joshua actually requests it. Anna, however, has decided that she does not like it, and she refuses to put a bite in her mouth.
I explained as we sat down that I had a surprise for anyone who finished their dinner. In due time the boys got to eat their cookies, and Anna, who had been refusing to eat all night, decided that she would give it a try if her daddy put the food in her mouth for her. Daddy, being a sucker for those deep blue eyes, agreed to help...but even then, Anna just could not bring herself to eat her dinner.
I left Anna and her daddy to battle it out and headed off to get Joshua's shower prepared. After a few minutes, Anna appeared at the bathroom door with a satisfied look on her face.
"Did you eat your dinner, Anna?" I asked, hoping but not expecting.
"Well...no. I'll just have my cookie tomorrow." Satisfied that she had found and answer to her problem, she went off to play with her dollhouse.
Hmmm. This was not the kind of behavior I wanted to encourage, so after a quick parental consultation, I went to Anna and explained that her cookie would not be available tomorrow.
"Anna, you can either eat your cookie now, or not at all. You can't have it tomorrow," I declared.
"Oh!" she answered. "I'll have it right now!"
"No, no, Anna," I said, thinking about how she will have a great future as a loophole-finding attorney. "You still have to eat your dinner to get the cookie."
"Well, I'll just have another cookie tomorrow," she answered, reasoning that if Mom (me) was saying no to this cookie, surely there would be more and different cookies available in the morning.
"No, Anna," I patiently countered. "There are no more cookies. This is it. Either come eat your dinner and your cookie, or have no cookie at all."
Anna's little brow furrowed, not angrily, but in a way that told me she was processing this information and trying to make it come out in her favor. Sensing that she was losing the cookie battle, she decided to take the high ground and make it all her idea to begin with. Putting one little hand on her hip and waving her hand through the air in a devil-may-care manner, she proclaimed:
"I don't need a cookie."
You know, this girl tells us almost every day that she wants to be a doctor...but I am thinking there are some lawyer years in her future.