Erin has never had the stomach for battles at the dinner table. She has always felt that having the family gathered around the table was far more important than what was being eaten. Because of this for a long time we would often cook three different meals each night. Luke would have his chicken nuggets, Noah would have oatmeal or an egg and Erin and I would have whatever had tickled my fancy that week when I’d made the menu.
As they have gotten older and we have traveled more, we have worked at doing away with different meals. This effort has proven trickier than I thought it would. Not because the boys refuse to eat what we’ve made, though that does happen. Rather it is because I often forget that I am buying for more than two people and when the boys do like something they have been known to eat a lot more than one would think an eight and ten-year-old could. This leaves us with no leftovers, as I had planned, and Erin and I haggling over the crumbs of the meal. It also seems far more complicated and time consuming to cook one meal with sides than it ever did to cook three. Our short order days were so ingrained that it seemed like far less work. Whereas trying to come up with and remember to make a side dish might as well be akin to asking me to solve a quantum physics problem.
My memories of nightly family dinners growing up are of candles on the table, my mom’s salad and a different main course every night. I am not sure how my parents did it. They both worked, and take-out was something we only saw on TV. There are nights I can barely muster the energy to feed myself, let alone the family, and I don’t work outside the home. To that end, I came up with the idea of what I like to call Lazy Parent Night. The concept is simple, I will make them whatever they want as long as the meal involves only one pot or pan. So if Noah wants french toast sticks, which are far more involved than they sound, he is out of luck. A boiled or grilled hot dog, you got it, grilled cheese sandwich, eggs, chicken nuggets, waffles (frozen of course) no problem. But nothing that requires too much effort either in the making or the cleanup. The best part of Lazy Parent Night is that we get to eat in front of the TV. When I was a kid I got to do this one night a week, when Disney had their Sunday night movie. My dad would even deliver me my fried-egg sandwich. It is one of my favorite and sharpest memories from childhood. I hope Lazy Parent Night is that for the boys for it is the simple things that can ignite the greatest joy.