It was around four o’clock when the nine-year-old popped out an earbud and asked, “Hey Mom, what’s for dinner?”
And there it was, the loaded question.
Silence fell across the living room as three pairs of little eyes turned to me. I’ve never been interrogated, but I would imagine it felt a lot like that.
My answer, handmade meatballs with bow tie pasta, was met with a chorus of groans.
My heart dropped. But I had planned this out! I made dinner around lunchtime that day, just like I do every day the husband works. I packed up some for him to take, and I saved the rest for us to eat after he left. We were supposed to all be in meatball heaven within the next few hours!
As usual, everyone started talking at once trying to find a solution to our nonexistent problem. Then out of the chaos came the tiniest of voices from my soon to be five year old, “You could call the Pizza Man.”
(The funny thing about this is that not once in his little life have I actually CALLED the pizza man. Phone anxiety is my kryptonite so I use online ordering.)
And in that one sentence, dinner’s fate was sealed.The desire for pizza had gone viral. But what about my lovingly created meatballs? What about the bow tie pasta I had already worked out jokes for? What about all the work I did?
I tried to explain that I had dinner already made and it was going to be great! I even broke out a few of the noodles to show them how silly and fun it would be to eat bow ties. A song and dance may or may not have happened.
But my gang of pint-sized mutineers would not let the idea of pizza go. In a last-ditch effort, I turned to the husband for guidance, for wisdom, for some hope that I wouldn’t have to wave the white flag and give in to their demands. While putting on his shoes for work, he shrugged his shoulders, “Pick your battles, babe.”
Pick your battles.
If it’s not the official motto of good mothers everywhere, it damn well should be. As someone who is anxious by nature, I need plans. Plans get me through events and help me keep the feeling of the sky falling at bay. Even though I don’t believe in things having to be perfect, I need to have a plan, a backup plan, and a tertiary plan.
With kids, however, a lot of the time those plans become pretty much obsolete. It’s not so much of constantly giving in to the little monsters, it’s about compromise. It’s my belief that children, albeit still developing, are people too. They deserve the consideration we give other adults when it comes to the things they would like to do. (Of course, this is on the other side of basic safety and health-related items. I’ll tell a kid to take a bath and wear their seatbelt in a heartbeat. I’d tell an adult that too, actually.).
With kids, it’s much better if you don’t create battles out of things that just aren’t that important. If the only reason you are trying obtain a certain outcome is that you want to be the one that’s right, you’ve got bigger issues than what’s for dinner. There’s a line between being a leader and a being a tyrant. You can lead your children to adulthood and finding themselves without breaking them down drill sergeant style.
There’s no shame in assessing a situation and finding that your way is not the way it should go. Bending, not breaking, to the ideas of others, especially your own children, creates an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding. It supports the idea that their ideas are worthy and that they actually have a say over their own existence. It also helps develop their problem-solving skills. Figuring things out instead of just bluntly being told is good for kids. Even if it’s for mundane things like how to clean a room or what to have for dinner.
On the night in question, we did have pizza but we didn’t “call the pizza man”. I broke some frozen pizzas out of my personal stash in the freezer and we had an impromptu pizza party in the living room. The kids were happy, I was happy, and dinner was enjoyable and more importantly, stress-free.
Motherhood is about compromise. Sometimes if you let the mutineers have what they want, they let you keep the ship. But even then, they won’t let you pee alone.
P.S.: We did end up eating the meatballs and pasta the next day. It was not as well received as the pizza, obviously, but it did not go to waste.