A Mom's Confession.

October 30, 2008


I have been a bad mom. In some books I guess. Maybe not in others. You see, I always make C-Man a separate dinner. (Almost always.) This goes against all of our parenting philosophies about not catering to the children, raising them to be good, decent, responsible human beings, and not giant kids who need three dipping sauces for their KFC strips.

Plus, we are foodies. We love travel. Trying new things. Being open-minded. We want these things for our children. So, why, oh why, am I making C-Man separate meals that he eats separately from us? Not by himself, don't worry, he eats at the bar usually while I am cooking our "grown-up" meal. We chat, I teach him table manners, etc. Then baths, Baby J down by 6:30 p.m. (strict) and C-Man by 7:00. Then B and Jora exhale, open a fancy bottle of wine (not always, but more than we probably should), pretend we don't have kids and eat a lovely meal together. Sometimes sitting right next to each other and sometimes directly across from each other. Depends on our mood. {Can I just say: what is up with all of these fragmented sentences??}

I have lots of elaborate rationalizations for this routine that we are in. We will start eating together at (gulp) 5:30 when C-Man is 3, or the summer is over, or when school starts, etc. The problem is obvious I guess. We don't want to eat as a family....as horrible as that sounds. I love being a mom, I hate leaving them for almost any period of time, we've gone on very few trips without them, but dinner is our sacred time. It always has been. Plus, I want to drink wine, and if the kids are involved that means I have to breastfeed before I put Baby J down, so wine isn't going to happen during a dinner with the kids. Plus, that's no way to enjoy a fine glass of wine, is it ladies?

Then I blame the food police. In particular the American Academy of Pediatrics for freaking out every first-time mom about all the "no way" foods. I found it so hard to feed C-Man what we were eating when he was a baby because I am a natural born rule follower and there were so many to keep up with. So, I got used to make him something separate. Now, I just follow my mom's and mother-in-law's advice (and the AAP's to an extent) to feed the babies healthy, real food and they will grow up to be healthy, good eaters. Luckily, Baby J is on that track.

The other part of my rationalization comes in this form: the kid eats Really. Healthy. Food. And likes it. Piles of cooked chard, kale, spinach. He snacks on radishes, bell peppers, green onions (that's right), handfuls of arugula straight from the garden. The only yogurt he knows is organic plain with flax and the tiniest drizzle of honey. He asks for "butternut smoothies" (remember when I started sneaking frozen vegetables in his smoothies? Well, the kid catches on quickly and he now asks for them by veggie type). So. I could have worse problems, right?

Herein lies the problem: he has a fairly short list of foods he will eat without any protest and I want that list to expand. I want to have the type of kid that eats what's put in front of him at dinner, knows how to act at a grown-up table, and enjoys lots of different things to eat. Heck, that's how B and I were both raised. No special meals for us!

So that's what we've been working on this week. And in just a few days, C-Man has already tried several new foods (OK, with a little bribery, but still!), he helps set the table, and we can keep him sitting there for most of the time it takes us to finish our meal. But, no wine for me and B and I barely get to look at each other in the eye (just like my girlfriend Heidi said family dinnertime is like for her and her husband).

(Exhale.) With that very long introduction, I give you a recipe. A healthy and delicious dinner to enjoy with your family. Everyone gobbled it up (including C-Man).

Turkey Meatloaf
Adapted from Gourmet, January 2003

1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 medium carrot, shredded
1 small zucchini, shredded
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon ketchup
1 cup fine fresh bread crumbs (from 1-2 slices firm white sandwich bread)
1/3 cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/4 lb ground turkey (mix of dark and light meat)

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Cook onion and garlic in oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until onion is softened, about 2 minutes. Add carrot and zucchini and cook, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are very tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in Worcestershire sauce, parsley, and 3 tablespoons ketchup, then transfer vegetables to a large bowl and cool.

Stir together bread crumbs and milk in a small bowl and let stand 5 minutes. Stir in eggs, then add to vegetables. Add turkey and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper to vegetable mixture and mix well with your hands. (Mixture will be very moist.)

Form into a 9- by 5-inch oval loaf in a lightly oiled 13- by 9- by 2-inch metal baking pan and brush meatloaf evenly with remaining 2 tablespoons ketchup. Bake in middle of oven until thermometer inserted into meatloaf registers 170°F, 50 to 55 minutes.

Let meatloaf stand 5 minutes before serving.

(I served this with roasted potatoes, carrots and onions, all cut in matchsticks to somewhat resemble "fries.")
photo via Gourmet

18 comments:

  1. You know sometimes something's gotta give. Your situation sounds a lot like ours the kids go to be at 7 - 7:30 so they are ready for dinner at five. Then after dinner they have a little play time followed by tubs, books, then bed. Not to mention my husband isn't often home in time for the first dinner.

    We try to do the family dinner at least once during the week but always Friday, Saturday & Sunday. I usually sit with them while they are eating we talk about the day and practice table manners.

    Not to mention I have to admit I do the short-order cook thing from time to time. I'm so bad...

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  2. I find this so interesting, Jora... great confession/question/topic... As I am still gestating (36 wks!), I don't have particular solutions but I am very curious to hear what others have to say. Like you, dinner time (usually w/wine and eye contact) with my husband has been sacred for lo these 10 years now... but I really would like to raise kids who can belly up to the same table.

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  3. What a great photo! I don't have this problem since I don't have kids, but I can feel your pain. I'm not sure you have to give it up entirely - I know several families who fed their kids separately (at least on occasion) well into their childhoods - up to seven or eight years old. They grew up to be great kids, so it can't be all bad!

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  4. oops - I just saw that you didn't TAKE the photo. It's still nice though! ;-)

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  5. such a tough decision and the guilt...honestly, baby b and c-man probably never even noticed that they were not having dinner with the two of you. they sound like they are happy and very healthy. so, go back to having romantic dinners with your hubby. the kids will catch on later.

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  6. Jora, this is exactly what we do, too. I think that part about you "exhaling" is very important -- you need to have that time with the hubby, too. The routines and rituals will evolve in time given your good parenting. Meanwhile, enjoy that glass of wine.

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  7. No need to kiss grown-up dinners good bye completely. When Brett is feeling really gourmet, we feed the kiddies first, get them down, and then do the candles and wine thing. When that happens (maybe twice a month), it's really special. Our regular family dinners don't feel special yet, much too hectic with two little ones, but I still think it's important to make that the norm. It sounds like things are already off to a great start with C-Man!

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  8. This looks like almost the same recipe I use to make meatballs! I love having the shredded veggies in there.
    I think it's good that you get time with your husband in the evening. And they say that it isn't eating together as a family so much as making sure the kids get quality time in with you. It sounds like you've got that down.

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  9. I envy you that you can have meal time with your husband, looking into each other's eyes... that alone couple time is fabulous for your marriage, and especially for C-Man.

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  10. We do the same ... dinner for the kids (4.5 and almost 2) at 5:30, then bath and a little playtime. Sometimes my husband is home in time to see the little one before she goes down (around 7:30), sometimes not. Then big kid to bed at 8 or 8:15, and THEN grownup dinner. With wine.

    We too are foodies and really, really enjoy that dinner is Grown Up Time. We try once a week to have family dinner -- it's fun but not quite the same. All hail Grown Up Dinner!

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  11. Can you and the hubby maybe enjoy wine and a nice dessert with eye contact after you've had family dinner and put the kids to bed? Then still do a special "grown up" dinner a few times a month that will seem even more special?

    Shannon

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  12. we are facing the same dilemma - especially with the wine/breastfeeding issue. we have grown-up dinner after maia is down and we plan to do so for a long time. the few times we have attempted the family meal it has just been too hectic. i think the ideal is to do family dinners sometimes and grown up dinners sometimes. maybe have a sunday family dinner night where you eat at 5:00 and skip the vino. it's a tough one.

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  13. I have the opposite problem. We always eat dinner together as a family (which I really love,) but I have to make separate dinners for my ultra fussy children (vegetarians that don't eat vegetables.) This frustrates me way more than not having alone time with my husband. If it's any consolation, it does get easier!

    Regardless, I think you and B are clearly great and present parents, so if it works for you guys, then do it.

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  14. Jora, we always eat family dinners, however that means that the kids have a later bedtime, which means by the time the whole routine of dinner, bath, book, bed is complete we are just pooped! Actually, as much as I like having our family dinners together and i like cooking just one dinner for all, I crave some adult dinner conversation. Perhaps this is one of those situations that has no middle ground.? Blah.

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  15. This recipe looks delicious! Just 1 question: do you not use the mushrooms from the original recipe? I'm just curious.
    I'm no help on the end of getting the whole family to eat; our schedules are all so off that we only eat together about once or twice a week. Hopefully you can find a good balance that works for all of you. :-)

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  16. It's always a relief to hear another mom's meal time woes. I have to admit, I am very impressed with Charlie's diet, though. I'm lucky if my kids stray from Trader Joe's Macaroni and Cheese or a standard chicken and rice. It is hard to believe that I started out making my own Super Baby Food with organic greens, whole grains and the likes... all eventually turned down. Now I have resorted to giving my kids Supergreen supplements, since pretty much the only vegetable I can get them to eat is peas (and the occasional brocoli with Izzy). I wonder, how did they get so picky? Was it because I started off too healthy? Well, that is certainly not the case where Charlie is concerned. You did it right, I just wish I had figured it out, too!

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  17. Oh, and I agree that your meal dates are great for your marriage. If you've got daily family time, then let the dinner be for grown-ups--at least until the kids are old enough to be more independent.
    P.S. I know how to spell "broccoli," see?

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  18. This has become my go to Meatloaf recipe. :) The taste is very similar to my mom's except I prefer using the turkey and shredded veg. Love it! Just thought I'd tell you. ;o)

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