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

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”
DOES NOT EQUAL
“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.

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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
15 comments
  1. HAHAHAHAHA. I didn’t have it institute a “Thanks for making dinner” statement. My 5 year old somehow picked up that saying “this is gross” is not a good thing. Instead, when I hear “Mom this is delicious!” or “so yummy!” Within a minute or two I will also hear, “Can I be all done now?” And usually I’m okay with it, because she does at least try!

  2. My 5 yr old today: “MOM. Fix. My. HAIR.”
    Me: “Umm, excuse me, I think you meant “Dearest Mommy, will you please fix my hair, O Queen of The World??”
    Her: “Oh, yeah… Mommy, will you please fix my hair?.. But you’re not Queen of the world, just Queen of this house.”
    Me: “Haha, ok, I’ll take that” Lol 🙂

  3. I am new to your blog and I am reading through some of your prvious posts, and this one had me rolling. Of course I am at work reading it and should have been working so I am doing the quiet, hysterical laugh which is HARD to do, eyes were watering and everything. Anyway, I love your honest humor!

  4. oh my lord i think i have read this post 5 times now and it will never get old!!!!!!! LOL i am savoring your style of response so that i can use it on mine someday…heh heh…i’m sure that an occasion to do so will arise 😀

  5. Hilarious! My eldest is only 4, so I’m still perfecting our meal rules, but I like your style and may adopt your rule, or a variation of it.

    1. Ha! My apologies to your kids, Sharon. 😉 I’m sure they’ll love thanking you for dinner. Hehehe.

      1. I just read this post for the first time. Then I decided to read the responses…sharon( mommy joys) is my cousin!! (Her blog is also wonderful to follow.) I was going to email this to her to read!! Thanks Beth for the laugh and the new rule for my dinner table. I have a 2.5 yr old! 🙂

  6. Ha. We have friends who went a step further, and I think you should add this to your Dinner Law:
    “Thank you for dinner BEAUTIFUL MOMMY.”

    1. Oh, this is the Best. Addition. Ever.

      Guess what’s happening at my table tomorrow night?

      That’s right.

  7. Excellent. Always good for a good laugh Beth. Thank you so much for sharing your families foible with us. Actually, this is a pretty good rule to keep. I just tell my kids if they don’t like it they don’t need to eat, but they may NOT complain. I like your rule even better. “Mmmmmm dinner!” Wish I could see Ian verbally retreating on his words. Certainly both entertaining and highly educational for all others around the table that night.

    1. It’s like you were there, Holly, watching my other kiddos desperately shaking their heads “no” at Ian & trying to get him to hit the verbal eject button. Teehee. You gotta love nonverbal sibling solidarity.

  8. That is clever. Very clever.

    1. I assume you mean clever of Ian, ’cause God knows this mama is out-clevered all the live long day. 😉

  9. You are so dang good!

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