Parenting Hack – The Dinner Table

It happened again this week.  I had to walk away from the dinner table in frustration.  That day I had planned, shopped, cooked and I felt good about my week’s dinner menu.  On Monday night I prepared a Mexican rice casserole.  It had beans in it and I knew my 9 year old would turn his nose up at the beans.  The first 3 years of his life I made his dinner and then I made ours.  Then one day I realized how ridiculous and disastrous this habit was becoming.  I made the decision years ago that I would no longer limit my dinner preparations according to his picky desires.  If it were up to him our nightly dinner would rotate between plain pasta, beef tacos, Raising Canes chicken and cheese pizza.

He is a picky eater, there is no doubt about it.  I could make excuses for him saying that he has a problem with certain textures.  That his Sensory Processing Disorder makes eating certain foods and trying new things really difficult.  Both are true but I refuse to let those excuses define him or me.  Falling back on SPD as an excuse as to why he only eats enough to sustain a mouse is a crutch.  He can overcome his fear of green food, I’ve seen him do it.  It’s just really hard and unfortunately I don’t have the patience for it.

Thank God for my husband and the patience he has at the dinner table.  If it weren’t for him my child would have starved by now.  As I watch and listen to 9 year old groans and moans about how horrible the dinner I prepared for him is, my already thin patience starts to crack.  I watch him take the tiniest bite of what other children would love, and gag.  Literally gag and have to force himself to chew and swallow.  When the gagging starts I see red.  When I should be sympathetic, I become enraged.  My husband coaxes him through a small plate of food, coaching him through every bite, while I finish mine and have to walk away.

It’s times like these when I feel like a parent hack.  I know in my head that I should be more patient with him.  More understanding because I watched him go through Occupational Therapy for SPD and emerge victorious.  He has made leaps and bounds over the past 6 years and I should be happy that he will choke down a single green pea without throwing it back up.  Yet, 90% of the time I just can’t bring myself to show sympathy.

I’ve accepted that at the dinner table I’m failing at parenting this child.  That is when I give up a silent prayer of thanks for the man sitting in between us who will be his teacher in How To Eat Like A Normal Person 101.  Because I know I’ve failed this test I remind myself that I will ace other areas of parenting.  We bond over Harry Potter as I read out loud to him each night.  I will sit next to him at the piano and encourage him to keep up the good work.  I will stand firm in my refusal to let him play video games before school despite the fact that all the other kids in class get to play them whenever they want.

When it comes to parenting we can’t all be perfect all of the time.  It is the times that we feel like parent failures, or hacks, when a variation of the serenity prayer comes in handy.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things

(the tantrums, the snotty noses, the spit up, the vomit in the middle of the night, the piles of laundry) I cannot change;

the courage to change the things (the screen time, the negative attitudes, the messy rooms, the chores) I can;

and the wisdom to know the difference

(realizing which battles are worth fighting, which hill I’m willing to die on and when to take a deep breath let it go).

ParentingStephanie Clinton is a SAHM to two boys ages 9 and 4.  She loves their hugs and kisses but does not love wiping their snotty noses.  In her past life she has been a Gymboree teacher, an activity director at a retirement home, a business manager and a celebrity sighter.  She likes to think of herself as a pretty decent cook, artistic, crafty and sort of okay with a sewing machine.  She is a free lance writer, administrator for Oklahoma Women Bloggers and contributor to Metro Family Magazine.  In her free time (if there ever is any) she can be found reading, volunteering in her community, singing, avoiding housework but most of all blogging about her stay-at-home adventures.  Visit her at

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  1. Chris Carter says:

    Oh, how this speaks to me Stephanie. YES! So many times I reach that pinnacle of my parenting fail…hack…crash.

    I love how you portray this.

    We will rise and fall in our mission as moms- and thank GOD our children will embrace all we can offer them. I thank God for our husbands who fill in the gaps where we cannot. I pray the times I succeed at this gig far outweigh the times I don’t.

  2. Rose Marie B says:


    I appreciate your honesty when it comes to losing your patience as a Momma. In my humble opinion, it would only be a fail if you didn’t have the insight to know that dinnertime isn’t your strength and you need help. It’s okay to walk away and let Daddy handle it, I see THAT as a victory for all 3 of you. Parenting isn’t a pass or fail test…it’s a nurture the human they are destined to be test and sometimes even the keep everyone alive until they mature test…and it sounds like you’re doing one helluva job! 🙂

  3. God bless your efforts in this, Stepahanie. I get so tired of people coming over for dinner and being told what their children will and will not eat. I actually had a friend bring a steak to cook up for his 10-year-old daughter to our cookout because she “doesn’t like hamburgers.” Really? How about she makes do with chips, beans, potato salad, raw veggies and watermelon just for this one night? OK – I’ll get off the soap box before I REALLY get started!

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