Hunger Games: Good Book, Bad Dinnertime Manners

Have you read The Hunger Games and/or seen the movie? I finished reading the book a few weeks ago, and I was impressed. It’s the type of novel I would write (if I had the persistence to see such a project through). Give me an epic battle between good and evil any day, and I’m hooked. It’s even better when the line between good and evil is skewed by the presence of an outside force. Yes, I love a good dystopian story. (Perhaps because I sometimes feel that I might actually be part of one.)

Yet even the courage and cunning of Katniss Everdeen doesn’t catch my attention quite like the clever little girl who poses a daily challenge to the authority I have arbitrarily been granted as her mother. From asserting her independence with what she chooses to wear to her outright refusal to eat what I set in front of her, this child certainly knows the game and is a worthy opponent. She is, after all, her mother in miniature, and I don’t easily back down from a fight. Last night’s dinnertime standoff was no exception.

Here’s a replay of the action:

My opening move is to place a plate of ravioli in front of Omelette. I make sure she has everything she needs for the meal (fork, napkin, cup of milk) before taking my seat at the table. Then, I sit down to enjoy my meal.

All is going smoothly until Early Bird decides she has had enough and begins loudly protesting everything from the plate in front of her to the buckle that holds her in her chair. Roostler jumps in to try to thwart her efforts to leave the table prematurely.

In all of the commotion, Omelette feels her presence on the playing field is not being asserted, so she makes her move. She declares that she can’t cut her ravioli and begs me to do it for her. I refuse on the grounds that the ravioli is easy enough for a 7-year-old to cut for herself.

With Early Bird still making much noise, Omelette proceeds to whine that she can’t cut her own food and promptly refuses to eat until I give in and do it for her. I, however, hold my ground —

“It’s your choice. You can eat, or you can be hungry. If you choose not to cut your ravioli for yourself, you are choosing to be hungry. But I’m not doing it for you. You are a big girl, and big girls cut their own ravioli.”

Omelette counters this declaration with a “Hmpf” as she folds her arms and sets her head and arms on the table in front of her plate.

At this point, Roostler takes Early Bird out of play, a move that does not escape Omelette’s attention —

“Why does she get to leave the table? She didn’t eat her ravioli. And anyway, you cut hers for her.”

I am quick to respond —

“She’s 2. You’re 7. You can cut your own ravioli. And you’re not leaving the table until you do.”

Having finished my meal, I get up to begin clearing away the dishes. As I do so, Omelette pulls out the weapon she’s been saving. The one that’s sure to inflict the most damage. And with my back turned, she assumes I will never see it coming —

“You’re being mean to me.”

There it is — the guilt factor. An attack that’s sure to bring any mother down. But Omelette doesn’t suspect the shield I have reserved for such attacks —

“No, I’m not being mean. I’m being your mother.”

Deflected! And now all Omelette has left are tears, which I am most certainly immune to. Omelette seems down for the count. With no recourse left, she sniffles and concedes her defeat but with an unexpected condition —

“Mama, can you get me a knife?”

I am a bit taken aback by this request (since no one else used a knife and the ravioli was easy enough to manuever with just a fork), but I am secure in my ultimate victory, so I allow it. And so our dinnertime standoff comes to a conclusion. I finish the dishes, and Omelette finishes her ravioli. Who knew all she needed was a knife?

Well, there you have it. It may not be worthy of the best seller list or a Hollywood adaptation, but it was an epic battle fought by two opponents equally vying to outlast and outsmart the other. Eat your heart out, Suzanne Collins! You’ve got nothing on the patient and persistent will of a mother.

What epic battles have you fought with your child? How was the battle won?

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4 Responses to Hunger Games: Good Book, Bad Dinnertime Manners

  1. I love this! I have a 7-year-old and a 1 year old and I can totally imagine this at our house! Next time it happens I’ll probably get the giggles and it will be all your fault! Lol. Thanks for the smiles this morning.

  2. millik78 says:

    I have three children: 14, 9, and 5, and they all have gotten their streaks of stubbornness quite honestly from both me and my husband. Though, my husband protests that it is more me than him, and I must be honest and agree. One battle in particular was with my son when he was five years old. I was determined to expand his definition of well balanced meals past PB&J, hot dogs, chicken nuggets and green beans, or grits and bacon (no veggies or fruit- NO exaggeration).
    One night, I made a simple dinner of chicken and rice, green beans, apple sauce, and milk. We sat down at the dinner table and said the blessing and started to eat. My sweet boy eats a green bean and two tiny pieces of rice, and crinkles his face into the cutest expression of disgust I have ever seen, and pushes his plate away. My husband and I explained to him that he was to eat half of every different food before he could go and play before bath and bed time. He looked up with is big blue eyes and chubby little cheeks and says very politely, “No, thank you.” We explain to him again the terms of his release from the dinner table. He protested again without any luck. He then sat quietly for a good 45 minutes. I was determined to improve his eating habits and he was determined not to. As bed time neared, I looked at him convinced he would make the right choice (eat the food I place in front of him), and gave him an ultimatum. I said, “Son, you either eat your food or go to bed hungry.”
    He looked up pitifully and said, “Good night, mom. Good night dad.” He got down off his chair, brushed his teeth, and went to bed after he said his prayers.
    I told my husband, “Yeah, that’s not the way I saw this going.” You see, it did with my oldest. She wasn’t going to bed hungry! I went to tuck him in and he was already asleep. My husband said, “Great the boy’s just like you. Now, both of you have proven that neither one of you will give in. Can I wake him up and feed him?”

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