Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Battle of the Table

I am almost certain that the unique genetic recombination that resulted in the creation of my two children, has spawned offspring who are nearly incapable of sitting through a meal at my kitchen table. Blame my husband Mike, since he is spastic at best, or blame me since I am known to be a smidge active; either way our poor kids are pretty much fated by hereditary to be in constant motion.

Maybe I have not seen enough young children eating at home, maybe I have too high expectations, or maybe I am experiencing normal, age appropriate behavior from my children. All guesses could be right, all guesses could be wrong. All I know is their antics drive me to reach for a beer about half way through dinner, and I know this must be what drives some parents to drink. The table is my personal Armageddon three times a day and each meal becomes exponentially worse than the previous one. Breakfast is generally OK, lunch somewhat manageable, and dinner is mostly a 20 minute nightmare. This cycle is repeated day after day after day... and put away that miniature fiddle that you are playing on my behalf.

Since both of my children appear to have fleas or ants crawling all over their bodies when asked to sit still, various tactics have been employed to control their sphere of influence. We used a booster seat with a strap to restrain Wyatt until he turned 3 and had to abandon this system since he nearly flipped him self over in his chair on several occasions by pushing with his feet on the edge of the table. Then he graduated to the bench seat where in theory he can do less damage to himself, but it opens the door to unlimited motion during the mealtime proceedings. Ella is still in a booster seat with a strap; without the strap latched, she shimmies down her chair in about 12.8 seconds.

So I have made the appropriate motherly efforts to physically restrain my children through their dinning experiences, much to their distain and dislike. By the way my kids gyrate one would think they have an acute case of poison oak or maybe hemorrhoids. Sitting through a meal is akin to water torture for them. I think they would rather lick their food off the floor then eat at the table.

At breakfast, Wyatt mostly eats his food with only leaving the table about twice. I am lucky that three times a week Wyatt eats his lunch in his car seat as Aunt Suzi brings him home from preschool. Since he is strapped in a car seat he eats great and I have contemplated bringing it in for meals. At the battle royale, otherwise known as dinner, Wyatt sits for about two bites then, goes into flight mode. He and I spend the rest of the time in a mortal combat where I may have to retrieve him four to six times and physically return him to his seat. Other times it can be much, much worse. After the third or forth time he drops his fork, I can feel a red hot irritation spread through my nervous system and I go to a quiet place in my mind so that I don't pummel the child.

At any given meal, Ella strapped in her booster will take between three and five bites then say repeatedly "awl done, awl done, awl done." I make her stay there for at least five minutes or until it looks like she has eaten a portion of her food, then I relent and unsnap her lap belt. She has developed quite a throwing arm and can side arm pitch a chunk of potato 10 feet across our kitchen. When she was in a high chair, she invented a clever cleaning method for the tray. By emulating the back and forth action of a windshield wiper, one of her short toddler arms can efficiently clear the entire contents of her tray/table in about two swipes. Wyatt's howling laughter at his sisters lovely and endearing table time antics brings a beaming smile to her face. Then there is the peeking under the table at each other coupled with the fits of giggles.

Going out to eat presents it's own logistical difficulties as Mike and I have to each take one of the children in to our physical custody in order to keep them from crawling under the table or climbing over the bench seats. Denny's is about the only place we can go were I don't feel guilty about the kids behaviour, but the food is just not worth the effort. How is it that every time we go out to eat, I see a lovely family with a quiet and mostly motionless child who sits in their highchair without fighting. Where do these children come from? What do the parents do them at home to create such results?

So the only up side to the lack of classy table manners at my home is that the kids eat vegetables and a variety of food preparations. Wyatt eats broccoli, green beans, cucumbers and an occasional carrot and is acquiring a taste for other less desirable fodder through my unrepentant use of bribery. Ella, the more cosmopolitan eater since the introduction of the first jars of baby food, will try almost everything. She will happily chew on a piece of bell pepper or cucumber and eats entrees just as well. Ella also has a penchant for Lima beans which she intentionally picks first to eat from the mixed vegetables. They both like mac and cheese but do not require it for their subsistence. Even though the kids resemble a pair of circus freaks while dining, they manage to get food into their bellies. I hope as they learn to control the electrical impulses that surge through their bodies that they will eventually be able to sit at the table like normal kids. For now, I will endeavor to train them as tedious and mind numbing as it can be. :)

Afterward: Last night both kids sat for an unprecedented 10 minutes before starting to squirm. There is hope yet.

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