Child Abuse or Parenting Genius?

Saturday was a looooong, busy day and by Sunday evening, after church, playing football with the boys, helping with two school projects and all of the regular activities that happen around here, my husband and I were exhausted!  In all of the chaos of the day, we had forgotten to take something out of the freezer for dinner and, to be honest, we were just too tired to make anything anyway.  We tossed around the idea of going out to dinner but, again…too tired.  We don’t live in a place where we can have food delivered so that was out of the question too.  So…what does a mother and father of three do when they are just too tired to feed their children?  I don’t know what you do but here’s how it went at our house.

I called my two boys over and told them the following… “Hey kids, there’s been an announcement.  Today has been declared Parent Appreciation Day which means that the kids have to make dinner for their parents tonight.”   I was immediately met with sighs and groans to which I replied “You get to make what ever you want as long as it is remotely healthy and edible”.  They perked up a little bit after that.  I suggested that they go in the kitchen, check out the pantry & the fridge and come up with a plan.  They have both helped with dinner before but never gone officially solo before, with the exception of the occasional hotdog or sandwich. 

Their father and I sat in the other room listening to the various noises of them rifling through possible ingredients and discussing their plan.  After a few minutes, my husband gave me the look of “Are you sure that turning the kitchen over to a 9, 6 and 1-year-old is a good idea?” 

Eventually it seemed as if they had a plan.  Our oldest was going to be the head chef and prepare the bulk of the meal.  Our middle son was the sous chef, maitre’ de and general “do everything else” guy.  He prepared the menu, the list of rules that he taped to the wall and cleared the dining room table for dinner.  He also provided our appetizers and side dishes. 

After several questions about how to do this and that, it was clear that they needed a little guidance in the kitchen and after my 9-year-old asked my 1-year-old to hand him a knife (in order to allow her the opportunity to help) I decided it might be a good idea if I went in to supervise.   He was just opening the box of pasta that his little sister had chosen from the pantry and was trying to figure out what to do next.  I did not want to steal his thunder on the planning and executing of the meal but I decided to provide a few suggestions on how to prepare what he had planned in order that I might actually have something edible for dinner.

He got a little frazzled when everything started coming together at the end and he needed to drain the pasta, turn off the pasta sauce, cut up the chicken patties he had chosen to add to the pasta, etc. but he got it done. 

Our middle son was frantically pouring drinks, trying to get his sister to sit in her chair, which she did not want to do, and preparing the “side dishes”. 

Finally, it was time to sit down to our meal.  Here is what was on the menu:

Appetizers – grapes and crackers

Drinks – chocolate milk for everyone (except li’l sis who got plain milk)

Meal – Wheelie pasta noodles served with diced tomatoes, chopped chicken patties, a tomato based pasta sauce and shredded parmesan cheese.

Sides – sliced cheese and crackers that appeared to have been stepped on and rolled over.

Dessert – our choice of cookies or ice cream.

It’s not exactly what I would have prepared but it was definitely edible and the kids were soooo proud of themselves.  My 6-year-old even told me that he would make us dinner every night.  Then he added “except for Friday because that will be my night off”.   He also said that we needed to keep the rules hanging on the wall so that we would all remember to follow them:

  1. Don’t be loud.
  2. Do not go in the kitchen
  3. Finish your food unless you are full.
  4. No more than three refills
  5. Stay in your seat.

I asked him if they had to follow the rules when it was my turn to make dinner.  He said yes so I agreed to leave them up for a while.

It was also great to hear my 9-year-old say “Mom, I can’t believe you do that every night.  That is hard work, especially at the end when you have to do everything at once.”  

Ah…validation…it’s a wonderful thing.

Will this change the way they eat dinner every night?  Will they eat all of their veggies and never complain about a meal again?  Probably not but that’s ok, we’ll keep working on it.  I think the first step to this goal will be to institute a regular Parent Appreciation night!


So, how do you vote?  Child abuse or Parenting genius?


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10 Responses to Child Abuse or Parenting Genius?

  1. Kim Pugliano says:

    Awesome! I totally want to try that!

  2. Jason Kline says:

    Ahhhh…the best part was the smashed crackers that I received as an appetizer. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I had ordered the Doritos. I look forward to many more of these events in the future.

  3. Laurie says:

    What a wonderful teaching moment. I am impressed they came up with their own rules that had to be followed. They learned how to take responsibility and plan a meal, how to work together (including a less than 2 year old), some appreciation of what Mom does for 2 adults and 3 children, 3 times a day, 365 days(give or take) a year. Sounds wonderful to me!

    Just one question. Who had to clean up?

  4. Peggy says:

    Brings back memories of when you, your brother and sister cooked an anniversary dinner for your father and I and you three had the same positions and jobs as my three grandchildren did.

  5. Awesome idea and you are a true parenting genius! Bravo! =)

  6. Laura Ruby says:

    Great teaching experience and fun too. Good job.

  7. Jonathan says:

    Excellent post! Just read most of it out to my other half (we have three girls – aged 5, 6 and 10)… we’re thinking about doing this.

    The “rules” had us laughing out loud 🙂

    • jenkline75 says:

      Thanks! Let me know if you give it a try. I’d love to hear about the experience of others with this experiment. Who knows…if enough of us stick with it, maybe we could get a Parent’s Appreciation day officially put on the calendar!

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