Okay, I seriously don’t understand how to do dinner prep with small children. Many of you have similar creatures, and many of you seem to be functioning at more than a basic level. So please: share your secrets.
Mine are young enough that without near-constant parenting, they make really poor (often dangerous) choices. There is always screaming if I’m out of the room for more than one minute. So I need to parent. I need to offer eyerollingly frequent reminders that “use your words so he understands” and “hands are not for hitting” and “you may do what you want with your own penis but you may not do that to his” and “no bumper scooters” and “tell him he can have it when you’re done” and “we don’t call names” and “get your penis off the toys” and “stop it or I’ll gouge out my eyes.”
My spawn are also young enough that they need a regular infusion of calories. Without food, decisions get worse, and the frequency and pitch of their screaming increases. So do my threats to gouge out my eyes.
So I need to make meals. Until there is a viable living room version of the Easy Bake Oven, I have to leave the room to make meals. Often I cook the night before and just reheat. I resent this, for after bedtime is my time and I’d like to read, write, exercise, or stare at a freaking wall without admitting that this job is a 24-hour-a-day kind of thing.
But even stepping away to scoop and reheat leaves small people screaming and hitting and grabbing and knifing (okay, not the last one, but it seems as though). If, heaven forbid, I try to wash a bit of produce, cut it, throw something in a pot or pan, and plate it when it’s all ready, my children are bloody, bedraggled, and writhing in a pile of all the belongings I used to hold dear. I don’t make nine-veggie quiche or anything. I’m not segmenting oranges and candying the peel. I crock-pot a chili or soup or I bake a casserole or I cook carb/protein/fiber in separate pots and just throw it all on a plate.
And yet within five minutes someone squirts someone else with a hose and someone screams and exacts revenge, and someone climbs on my desk and throws off all the tax papers and the carefully stacked scholarly articles (yes, I print them…sue me), and someone asks to make lemonade and rips two million lemons from the tree and gets juice on the floor and demands agave and then spills the whole lot, and someone pees on the floor, and someone rams a scooter into my ankle, and someone begs for popcorn, and someone tracks mud through the house, and someone torments the cat, and someone starts throwing LEGOs, and someone goes outside to get the mail but leaves the door open for another someone to wander out…
In five minutes.
I’m not kidding. That all happened tonight while I tried to make stir-fry and rice.
Someone once told me (demand credit in the comments if this was you) they’d like to see an episode of Top Chef where the quickfire challenge was to create a delicious meal from what was in the fridge in ten minutes WHILE having to stop every 30 seconds to break up a fight, being away from the stove for an unpredictable number of minutes, and stopping at the midway point to wipe someone’s ass. And the wall they poop-painted trying to “help”.
How do you make a meal when your children are young? I have no earthly idea how people do this. Do other people have a partner or a helper or a prison guard in the half hour before dinner? Do you serve crackers and cheese every night? Do you tie the children to various doorknobs through the house and tell them the last one to free herself get a pony?
Do I need to bribe? Threaten? Order takeout?
HOW do you do it?