5:00 pm: Locate the one, specific plate they will each condescend to eat off of. They will usually be dirty. Clean them.
5:05 pm: Fill their plates with food. Be sure to include:
a. One food they will almost definitely eat (this will be something that only technically qualifies as food, like Chef Boyardee or hot dogs).
b. One food they might, possibly, in a fit of wild adventureness, decide to try one bite of before spitting out (this will be something unassuming looking, like rice, or maybe carrots).
c. One food they will never in a million years touch but which you feel you must put on their plates for your own peace of mind (this will be something green).
5:20 pm: Make your own dinner. This will be leftovers, since after cooking for the kids you don’t have time to cook for yourself.
5:22 pm: Call the kids to the table.
5:23 pm: Kid #1 will demand more milk. You explain that her glass is full. She continues to demand more milk anyway and screams until you get up and get it for her.
5:24 pm: Kid #2, having chugged his milk while you were tending to Kid #1, now requires more milk too. You get up to get it for him.
5:27 pm: Kid #1 will announce that they need to use the potty. You say “No. We’re having a Nice, Quiet Dinner and nobody is getting up until everybody is done.”
5:28 pm: Kid #1 will complain that if she is not allowed to go potty, she’s going to have an accident. You reluctantly grant her permission to leave the table.
5:29 pm: Kid #2 picks through Food Item #2, samples it, spits it out dramatically and looks at you like you are trying to poison him.
5:31 pm: Kid #1 will have some kind of emergency in the bathroom that requires your presence. You leave the table again.
5:35 pm: When you return, Kid #2 will have inexplicably spilled half of his dinner all over himself, the table, and the floor. Mop up the table, let the dog take care of the mess on the floor.
5:37 pm: Kid #1 will return to the table and (yet to touch her food) announce that she is “done.” You ignore her.
5:39 pm: Kid #2 announces he is “sticky” and requires cleaning. You get up to get a towel.
5:40 pm: Kid #1 is mortally offended that you did not bring her back a towel as well. You get up and get her one.
5:41 pm: You take the first bite of your dinner.
5:42 pm: Kid #1 announces that they are done, again, and Kid #2 chimes in that they are done too. They begin an off-key “I’m done” sing-a-long.
5:43 pm: You ignore them and take a second bite of your dinner.
5:45 pm: Still having eaten nothing on his plate, Kid #2 announces that he “needs more.” When you explain that he can have more as soon as he has finished what is already on his plate, Kid #2 will start to scream.
5:46 pm: Kid #1 starts to scream at Kid #2 to stop screaming.
5:48 pm: Kid #2 throws the second half of his dinner on the floor and demands dessert.
5:49 pm: Kid #1 stops screaming long enough to demand dessert as well.
5:50 pm: You say no to both dessert requests and take a third bite of your dinner.
5:51 pm: Both kids now whine to leave the table. You explain that, “We’re having a Nice, Quiet Dinner and nobody is getting up until everybody is done.”
5:55-6:00 pm: Both kids will then whine/cry/pout until you finally throw up your hands and agree that they can leave the table.
6:01 pm: You sit at the table, alone, in front of your own (mostly untouched) plate because you know in five minutes this is going to happen:
6:06 pm: “Mom, can I have a snack?”
Cory Putman Oakes is a children’s book writer from Austin, Texas. Her next book, DINOSAUR BOY, comes out February 3, 2015 from Sourcebooks. She has not had an actual “nice, quiet dinner” since her oldest child was born, four and a half years ago.
Photo: Nick Lee