Sucking on a Stick of Gross with a Heaping Side of Disgusting (or, Mmm! Dinner!)

Nov 18 2011

For years, I’ve had a strict, no-complaints-at-dinnertime rule. If my kids don’t like dinner, they may say, “Thank you, Mom, for making dinner,” and that is all they may say.

It’s a good, sturdy, sensible-shoes kind of rule, ’cause nothing’s quite so demoralizing as slaving over dinner only to hear a wee little, high-pitched voice say, eloquently, “Eeeeeeeewwwww!”

I didn’t always have the “Thank you, Mom, for making dinner” rule. I used to blow neon green steam out of my ears, bug my eyes out, and say through clenched teeth, “You will EAT it and you will LOVE it.” That was when I was going through my realistic phase of parenting, and I always said practical, reasonable things to my kids. Good times, y’all; good times.

The very best – and completely inevitable – outcome of “Thank you, Mom, for making dinner” is the fact that the phrase has morphed into thinly-disguised code for “Gee, Mom. This dinner tastes like sucking on a stick of Gross with a heaping side of Disgusting.”

So, when my kids say, “Thank you, Mom, for making dinner,” it’s usually accompanied by the kind of drawn sullenness most people would reserve for their first break-up, or that climbing rope in gym class, or that time you thought that cutting your hair while you were pregnant was a good idea. The kids go a little pale, their eyes droop, and their lips don’t actually move while they say in their very best Dead Robot monotone voice, “Thank you, ah, for aking dinner.”

If you recall, I started this post with these two words: for years. For years. For YEARS, “Thank you, Mom, for making dinner” has been in the family canon.  It is law. I walked up a mountain, God engraved it on a stone tablet, and I high-tailed it back home before I found anything creepy up there, like overly-talkative, burning shrubbery.

The first words my children spoke were “Thank you, Mom, for making dinner.” In fact, after I birthed two babies too early and they were in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, I attached myself to an industrial-sized milking machine that made my breasts into world-class contortionists, and, when we sent the breast bounty (12 drops of colostrum – woot!) straight to my babes’ bellies, they looked at me and said, with perfect diction, “Thank you, Mom, for making dinner.”

So you’ll understand my surprise when Ian, who’s 11 and knows better, took one bite of dinner last night and said, “This tastes like puke.”

If you’re bad at math, don’t worry, I’ll help you out:

“This tastes like puke”
“Thank you, Mom, for making dinner”

It’s a tough equation, so don’t feel bad if you don’t get it right away. Ian didn’t either.

Enter: The most challenging thing about parenting, which is, for me, not cracking the heck up when my kids pick up a rule and smash it, World Wrestling Federation style, over their heads. It’s rule throw-down time, my kid just waved the red flag, and I will tell you what… this mama bull ain’t nevah backed down from a challenge.

Me: “That is so interesting, Ian. WOW. That sounded almost exactly like ‘Thank you, Mom, for making dinner,’ so I can see how you’d be confused.”

I might’ve speared him with the Zoolander look that I like to call Please DO Tell Me What You Were Thinking When You Deliberately Stepped In That Giant Steaming Pile Of Dog Poo, Child.

Those wheels in his head were turning so fast, I could hear the gears grinding.

Ian, backpedaling: “Uuhhhh… right, Mom. Sorry about that. I meant to say, ‘This makes me want to puke. But I won’t puke, Mom. I’ll hold it in.'”

Me, sympathetically: “Hey, Ian. You know what? I understand. I get it. We all make mistakes. Like, just now when I said, ‘That is so interesting, Ian,’ what meant to say was, ‘You just earned yourself a Weekend o’ Extra Chores, dude.'”

Watching my kids try to verbally retreat is one of life’s great joys.

Ian: “WHAT? No, Mom! No! It was a accident. I didn’t say puke. I said… I said… ‘Mmm! Dinner!'”

Hehehe. That’s what I thought, baby boy. That’s what I thought.

P.S. My chore list just got really long, and there’s a whole weekend ahead with nothing but hours and hours to get stuff done. Puke is my new favorite dinner. Just saying.