Monday, 28 November 2011

‘Table for one, Madame? ’ … HELL YES!

God, I realise that I must be in a minority, but I do just love Monday mornings! Now I know most people don’t and to be honest that’s not surprising, as for them it’s the start of the working week, but for me it’s just a wonderful time. For me it’s a time to cherish and to regroup from the weekend, to relish the stillness of my house, the peace and quiet and the fact it’s now just me and Doris to keep each other company.  Of course and without doubt, I adore my family, but sometimes, just sometimes, the noise, bickering and occasional out and out ‘war’ wears me down in the way a toddler high on smarties would!

Still every weekend I try to succeed at being an accomplished wife, parent, cook and all of my other various roles and so to that end, the pinnacle of our weekend is our Sunday Lunch/ Dinner.
Regardless of what it’s called in your world, I’m sure it’s not just me that aspires to producing a glorious meal for my picture perfect family to all sit down together and enjoy!
I know there are statistics out there and so called experts who champion the importance of eating together as a family, but I wonder have they actually ever tried it. I mean, not just in theory, but actually in ‘real life’ with proper kids…. well in this case, my kids! Or could it be that all the research carried out on this subject has been conducted in a top-secret laboratory somewhere off the coast of Russia, using computer-generated children, whose moods, reactions and behaviours, unlike mine, could at least be slightly predictable?

My hope, in fact my one mealtime wish every Sunday, is that our meal together will be a chance for us all to catch up, to chat, bond, laugh and enjoy ourselves, oh and of course that it will result in everyone singing my praises over the sumptuous meal they’ve just eaten… Now I do love food but also hate cooking, however, I do my utmost best to produce a meal that pleases all, that ticks the boxes for each individual taste and that hopefully won’t end up in the cat’s bowl or the bin. This however, is not a view that I’m sure Doris shares!

But this after all is my family; well let’s look at the facts! Mr Posh Bird likes 3 square meals a day, Miss C is 16 and like me, isn’t too fussed with large meals, preferring to eat little and often and only then when she’s hungry. Then there’s little Miss H, who’s 9 and who would quite frankly be happy to eat her own body weight in sweets and chocolate everyday and be done with it! 
So I suspect my meal time wish may well already be on a hiding to nothing if I'm honest, but I soldier on regardless! So having found a selection of foodstuffs that I think they’ll all eat and that kind of go together on a plate we sit down at the table. Now it wasn’t easy getting us all there, having required me to shout around the house to gather the kids downstairs and in the same place, I’m also now repeatedly asking for the TV, phones and iPods to be switched off out of respect for us all. 

So far so good and we’re all seated and in fact I’m feeling quite confident that my repeat of one of last month’s successful meals will again be a ‘winner’ this time? But please someone answer me this? ‘ How can it be that my children will happily eat one type of food one month/week/day then suddenly without warning decide that they don’t like it, and what’s more, adamantly say that they’d already told me last week that they hated it, so why hadn’t I listened to them!

In my astonished state I drift off in my own thoughts and start to wonder, why oh why, does the government pay vast amounts of money to produce highly trained ‘sniffer dogs’? Surely they could put my kids, most kids, to good use by employing them to sniff out drugs and explosives? After all it seems they have the nose of a bloodhound and taste buds that are more precise and well honed than that of a Michelin star chef! Now my kids can spot a bowl of ‘non’ Heinz tomato soup at 100 paces or from just the merest of whiff’s or that the sweetcorn isn’t ‘green giant’ from the living room (whilst watching X factor) with the plate still in the kitchen! I mean come on, how do they do it, please tell? And what’s more, please MI6…do you want them? 
Back in reality, I sigh! It’s not started well but I’m determined to rescue this meal from the brink of disaster and so I start initiating conversation aimed at both my kids and Mr Posh Bird, trying to find a common ground for all. Asking questions about their week, work, school and college and ignoring the almost incessant beeping from Miss C’s iPhone, which of course, should be OFF!! So it’s obvious that Miss C is having a ‘teenage day’ today and she clearly doesn’t want to chat and so I respect her space and give up on her. So now instead of generating conversation, I’m now trying to deflect it and the stream of comments from her Dad, who now wants to discuss why she doesn’t want to ‘discuss’… HELP ME! 

Little Miss H is far easier, she loves chatting so we all listen to her for about 10 minutes and I’m thinking this is nice, this is how it’s supposed to be,  but then little Miss H has a habit of swinging her legs under the table and ‘by accident’ kicking me repeatedly. Now it seriously doesn’t matter where I put my legs but she still manages to bump them. So after repeatedly asking her to be careful with her flailing limbs, without any success, I end up kneeling on my chair with my legs tucked under my bum. The pins and needles are a small price to pay in comparison to the constant rhythmic kicking and a random collection of bruises!

And so from a promising start, on this occasion, Sunday Lunch rapidly dissolves into whinging, boredom, raised voices, and sulks (Mr Posh Bird!) all of which leave me feeling an epic sense of failure on my part! To be honest it’s like this more often than not, but sometimes, against all the odds it does all work! On those precious occasions, we sit together, we chat and we laugh, nobody’s phone beeps, and the TV is off.
 These are the times when Miss C shows us snippets of the truly lovely adult that she will soon become and she’s kind to her little sister and her hormones are all in check. For her part, little Miss H takes it upon herself to sit cross-legged and all is calm under the table and risk of injury as averted. You know, I’m proud that this is my family, deep down we love each other and that we are at least sometimes able to achieve what parenting gurus expect of us.

Family life is never easy and almost impossible to get right all the time, but I can only ever do my best and so if sometimes I fail, well who cares.  I accept that occasionally it's ok to eat in the lounge, all sitting in harmonious silence whilst engrossed in reality TV and when I look at the bigger picture, my family is mostly happy, well adjusted, suitably nourished, unconditionally loved and so far I’ve managed to just about keep them ‘alive’!

But for all that, once, just once I’d like to go to a fancy restaurant and just have a meal all by myself!

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