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Thanks, Mom, but I´ve got this...

Dinner time for adults in Buenos Aires is never before 9 pm. It just isn´t done, restaurants aren´t ready for customers before then and most households, where working parents might arrive from the office at 7 pm or later are not ready to sit down to a meal till then either.

But the same is not true of the tummy of an almost 2 yr old. Chip is in bed by 10pm and he wants his papa (as all meals are called in baby castellaño) around 8, no doubt about it. We don´t exactly eat the same things anyway (ie he has extra servings of vegetables and I, unfortunately, do not) and he also occasionally eats things like hot dogs (of the low sodium variety) and chicken nuggets, which I do not, so meals are still separate affairs in our house. But I only realized just HOW separate they are last night.

C has been going to his “jardin” (read: daycare/nursery school type place) for about six months now. There he eats the lunch that I fix at home in the company of his 14 other classmates. From what I gather, it goes like this:

  • 15 litlte bums sit against the wall while the tables and chairs are moved
  • teachers open lunchboxes and place containers in assigned spots
  • kids are called to the table and proceed to eat ON THEIR OWN (yeah, they are between 16 and 26 months old here, barely toddlers) without conversation or distraction till its all gone (or a massive food fight errupts, who knows).

All of this is great, fostering independence, hand to mouth coordination and so on, until its time for dinner at home.

It seems Chip has gotten so comfortable eating on his own at school that if myself or his dad sit with him, we are a distraction, an excuse not to eat and to ask for various random objects around the kitchen, perhaps even the recipient of a fork-fling (not true, actually, though it sounds fun, but my kid doesn´t throw his food, other than to the dog, which in my worldview is entirely acceptable sharing.)

Now I caught on to this lone-diner phenomenon a while back, made the mental link with the school lunch routine and now manage to time things so that once his dinner is served, we are right on schedule for my second glass of wine or beer and a sit on the balcony (ie two minutes of adult time.) I mean, its the balcony, across the not so large living/dining room and in full view of the kitchen/high chair.

My mistake was in not sharing my discovery that our son eats his entire dinner if left alone and only half in the company of others with my dear husband. Dear husband who managed to wander into the kitchen a little over half way through and looked out to the balcony with a gruff

“What the heck are you doing out there?

“Letting Chip have his dinner”

“Well why wouldn´t you do that in here, where he is physically located ?”

“Ahh, because I think he concentrates and eats better on his own, the same way he eats at school”

“That´s silly….” (during which time Chip has put the fork down and is attempting to remove the cover from his sippy cup) “Here, son, have some more potatos”

“No, no más” (no more)
“Come on, ummm, let me try some” says Dad, “Yummy, here you go”
“No, NO MÁs” (increased vehemence in tone) This of course is the moment I chose to sweep into the room from my observation post on said balcony. “OK, kiddo, looks like you´re finished, would you like a popsicle?” Now this is not me rubbing my point in, its a fact and we both know it that once the fork is down, the factory is closed and there will no more ingesting, no “one more bit”, no cajoling, wheedling, we are FINITO.
“Sí, sí, helao sí” (yeah, we are working on the English here but its early days and most of what comes out of his mouth is still in Spanish. Hey, its me and the Supernanny against every other source of auditory stimulation around, I can´t be too picky)

And now, popsicle in hand, bickering parents silenced too, dinner is over.

What I would like to know is, does this happen to anyone else? Do you have little ones who eat in a group setting and now eat better when left alone? Any ideas for how to make dinner a social time again without distracting from the concentration eating so clearly requires? Or do we just want another couple of years till he can stay up till 10 on a week-night (yeah, because that´s happening soon…)? Or just be glad he´s eating at all much less on his own and move on? Thoughts, anyone?