“Dinner is not what it used to be.”

October 14, 2014
Notable Stats
Interruption Palpitation Expectation Rate (IPER) – The increase in your heart rate with each moment you try and take a bite of your food while your children find things to disrupt the peace you seek at the dinner table. The light-headedness you feel is probably starvation.
Request Ad Nauseum Constant (RANC) – The amount of times a child asks for something, after you have already given them everything they need to eat their food.
Finicky Binicky Stubborness Factor (FBSF) – The range of food type intake of a child. Zero means they only eat air, bacteria, and Cheerios. 

I remember the days of romantic glory. My wife and I would sit down with a bottle of wine, stare into each other’s eyes and discuss the world. Maybe this took 20 minutes, maybe it took 4 hours. We had nowhere to go but to each other’s heart or to catch another episode of our favorite TV shows. 
Eating was a form of harmonic motion. Chewing, sipping, unguarded food, sharing at will. 
Now, as parents. Eating is a sport and not with the grace of an ice skater, but with the force and intensity of a hot dog eating contest. 
With each subsequent child, the rules of the game change. My wife has already learned that every parenting book was written by people with one child. “You sit and wait until the child chooses from the 4 different vegetable colors in front of them,” goes one piece of advice. What? Apparently they did not factor in that the other children are crawling on the floor, screaming for some strange reason, pulling on the dog’s tail, or maybe in an effort to cook on their own, turning on a gas stove with their teeth.
In our house, we have a few key teammates in our dining sport.
The Staller – Our two year old tries to out-wait everyone under the sun. Her battle of attrition has the sole purpose of skipping any form of healthy or diverse eating, to get to the end game. Dessert. She hopes you will not notice she has not taken a single bite of anything by periodically moving the spoon from one side of the bowl to the other. She knows the other two children are forms of diversions set in front of the parental goaltender. She is sure your distraction will allow her to backdoor her way into candy. She will twirl her hair in a full frontal attempt to make you dizzy. While you get nauseous from her hair twist, she starts talking in baby gibberish. After we took the recording of her chatter to a linguist, we were told she is chanting “Fruit Loops and Boo Berry cereal.” Power moves – Hair Twirl Hypnosis, Death Stall, Screech.
The Foodie Hazer – Our five year old is a food critic. The first thing you offer her for dinner will be expressly rejected out of your mouth. It is her way of controlling the room. If she actually likes what you offered at first, she will force you into multiple choices until she circles back to what you originally offered. This process takes 46 minutes. Temperature matters. Her tongue is calibrated to measure food in degrees Kelvin and has been known to detect the exact number of grains of salt that fell into her oatmeal by accident. She was wrong once by one grain, and this was when she was suffering from some form of the Bubonic Plague. Her nose was stuffed up that day. She is, however, very helpful in the kitchen, but be wary, there are strings attached. Power moves – Guilt Trip, Hysteria Malaria, Moralistic Stare of Piercing
The Vibrating Bean – Our six year old works his magic at full speed. Although he will try anything you offer him, do not be fooled. He is setting you up. If he does not fully engorge himself on a full bowl of chili in the time it takes you to poor a glass of water, he will otherwise be rolling on the floor or doing headstands on the stairs with food in his mouth. He does not use utensils. The invention of these items were shunned because of his spiritual belief that touching food is the key to insuring a happy marriage in your future. He apparently believes that touching food with all body parts besides your hands is also valuable in the afterlife. At no point will he be actually sitting with both legs in front of him and in the chair; he will have one leg ready to escape, the other leg stepping on the dog, and if he had a third leg, which he believes he may will himself to have, he would rest the sole of his third foot on his sister’s head just to annoy her. His goal is to cause as much chaos and havoc as possible so that you concede dinner by forfeit, then he will aggressively pursue the path to the most sugar as possible. Power Moves – Conniption of Distraction, Speed Eating Asphyxia, Excessive Sisterly and Canine Touching
Tactically, how do you eat with these teammates? Keeping in mind, that they all want to be the star, everyone wants the proverbial “ball.” They all want to score, they all want their food preferences front and center. Yours, of course, are irrelevant.
Since I am working at ESPN with many athletes who are experts in their own sport. I decided to ask them.
Ricky Craven, NASCAR – “When you have a staller, you just get out the jumper cables and power it up. Then again, there is nothing like inducing cooperation by putting three kids in the back seat of my stock car and driving 200 miles per hour without car seats.”
Tom Jackson, NFL – “If that child of yours is choking from eating too quickly, I just throw up a football and by the time it comes down, I hit him like I used to hit the Oakland Raiders’ quarterback. I found it to be four to five times more effective than the Heimlich Maneuver.” 
Bruce Bowen, NBA – “I was more of a defensive specialist, so I play offense by stopping my opponent through defense. Lay down in the middle of the floor like you just took a charge and stay there, feigning your own death, until dinner is over.” 
Barry Melrose, NHL – “It is a very simple solution. At dinner, every night, I would line the cooking island with hockey pucks. Whenever someone is getting out of their seat, I would shoot the puck at them. If they wanted salt, I would put the salt on top of the puck, then shoot the puck at them.”
Mary Joe Fernandez, Tennis – “Whenever a child attempts to bum rush the stove or fridge after I have just fed them a plate of food (and of course, I have not taken a bite of food yet myself), I see them turn into yellow fuzzy spheres of selfishness. I immediately roll in a ball machine, put them in it, and point it towards the bathtub.”
Derek Jeter, MLB Legend – “I take the bird approach. Line up your little “fans” at the table, mouths wide open. I would pretend it is a clutch situation and hit the food into their mouths, then I would retire and they would be sad because my second rate replacement would not be as good.”
Thanks to my colleagues, our solution was right in front of us. So parents, embrace the sport of dining at home with multiple kids. Hire an NBA consultant, find a golf expert and find the magic again over a bottle of wine.
- Doug Glanville


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