do you eat dinner with your kids every night?… How about ever?

I just can’t seem to get in the groove on a lot of things these days, and so rather predictably, I missed yesterday’s Family Day, in which we were all encouraged to sit down and eat dinner with our children. Were I a better mother, I suppose I would be doing that every night, with or without the Director of the Commission for Drug and Alcohol Abuse’s exhortation to do so.  But the family dinner is, in my household at least, a curious and rare event.

There are two main reasons we don’t eat dinner as a family: my husband is never home at 6 pm, and I am not very hungry at 6 pm. But it’s not like the kids eat together, either. In the last year or so, I have figured out that any two of my children can eat dinner at the same time– but if all three are sitting there, it’s blowing bubbles in the milk and kicking under the table and three barely-touched plates. So every night, I have one in the bathtub, and two eating; or two eating, one doing homework; and dinnertime is relatively peaceful. I mean, at least food gets eaten.

I do sometimes feel a pang of guilt that I should be sitting with my children, asking about their days, and on those days I join them at the table. Then someone wants ketchup. Then someone wants salt. Then someone wants a different spoon. No not that spoon, the Dora spoon. Then someone wants more milk. Then someone spills his milk. I’m not sure who these mothers are that can get dinners on the table which pre-empt their children’s five thousand change orders, but I’d like to see one in action.

The only time the five of us sit and eat together is when we go to the diner on Saturday mornings. At least there, someone besides me can get the syrup and the napkins and the what-have-you. Those diner trips are fun, and I do see the merit of having dinners like that at home. I just feel like for me, they are a few years away.

How about you? Do you eat dinner as a family? If so, how do you manage to actually 1) sit down and 2) eat?

Halloween costumes: the search continues

It’s that time of year again, when children of all ages come home from school each day to pore over the Costume Express catalog and change their minds about what they want to be for Halloween a hundred and fifty times.

After several days of hefty consideration, the boys have made their final decisions. Connor’s going to be Harry Potter, which is kind of a hack choice; I think half his class went as Harry or Hermione last year (same costume). I pointed this out to no avail. Still, it’s better than Seamus’s costume: 

Apparently this is some Star Wars character named Cad Bane. I say it’s Freddy Krueger meets the Sleestaks from Land of the Lost, and I can’t think of a less cute costume for my 6 year old, but adorability is not really what he’s going for. 

Maggie, no surprise, is having a much harder time deciding. And that’s my fault. She first said she wanted to be a “pink piggy,” but the only costume like that I could find was 1) $44.99 and 2) awful. NOT cute. And goshdarn it, my 2 year old WILL be cute on Halloween if it’s the last thing I do.

So I start clicking around the internet, and Seamus suddenly yells, “Mom! That’s perfect!”

And I mean, it is, isn’t it? But Maggie took one look and shook her head.

“Dat for boys,” she said.
“What do you mean?” I asked. “Girls can be popcorn for Halloween.”
She looked at me like I was an idiot.
“No dem can’t,” she explained, “because the popcorn’s not pink.”

Where in the world did my two-year-old get the idea that if something isn’t pink or sparkly, it cannot be for her? Are all girls just hardwired to be obsessed with pink, at least until pre-K? I’m reading a book this week that would suggest otherwise. It’s an advance reader’s copy of a nbook by Peggy Orenstein, coming out in January, called Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture. First of all: best. title. ever.

Since it’s not out until January, I’ll wait to give you my review until it’s in stores, but here’s a sneak preview: this is a must-read for anyone with a young daughter. I have written before about my conflicted views on Maggie’s love affair with pink, and bewilderment as to where it came from. Peggy Orenstein has a few ideas about that, and I am regarding Maggie’s gender-selecting everything in her world with a new and heightened sense of dismay. Sure, I insisted on wearing a dress to school every day of kindergarten, but it didn’t have to be pink, or have a blasted Disney Princess plastered to its front. And I don’t think it entered my Halloween costume considerations at all.

After ruling out the popcorn, Maggie chose this costume–

which okay, I’ll admit, is freaking ADORABLE. But the pink is wagging the dog, here: if that cupcake had white frosting with blue dots, I don’t think she’d be gunning for it. 

Here’s the problem I see with the gender-sorting: Maggie thinks that anything that isn’t pink (or sometimes purple) isn’t for girls. That rules out many of the toys and clothes out there, to say nothing of the boardrooms at Fortune 500 companies and our nation’s institutes of higher learning. She’ll probably outgrow the pink obsession soon enough, but… do you see this “that’s for girls, that’s for boys” behavior in your daughters? And does it unsettle you? 

preschool separation: easier, and harder, than I thought

Maggie started preschool last week. As per usual with preschools these days, she went a half hour the first day, an hour the next, an hour fifteen day three. On each of these days, I cleared my schedule so that I might sit there in a tiny chair, offering her the comfort of my gradually more disinterested presence, before the tears and wailing and general agita once I dared, on day four or so, to say, “Mommy’s going to go now.”

On Day Two, twenty minutes or so in, I get the tap from the preschool director. 

PRESCHOOL DIRECTOR: Why don’t you go get a cup of coffee? I think she’s fine.

Oh yeah? Watch this, I thought, approaching Maggie at the sand table. 

ME: Maggie, Mommy is going to go outside for a little while.
Maggie keeps digging.
ME: But I’ll be right back! I’ll look at my watch! I won’t be late!
Maggie puts down her shovel.

MAGGIE: I don’t care.
ME: … what?
MAGGIE: You can go Mommy.
ME: I can?
MAGGIE: (shrugs) It’s up to you.

It’s up to me? The assistant teacher was standing right there, trying not to laugh at her rather curt dismissal of me, and so I left. Maggie shouted “See you later, crocodile!” down the stairs after me, but otherwise showed no reaction to my leaving. It was me in tears on the front steps.

This morning, when I dropped her off for her first full (four-hour) day, I started in on the mommy-will-be-right-back thing again, and she rolled her eyes.


I think I’m supposed to be happy about this. However, she is TWO. Do you think she might have mustered up a sniffle or two for the woman who bore her, and for a full eleven days past her due date? Hello? Anything?