For me, there is no more dreaded question in my house than What would you like for dinner? That's not entirely true....there is also When was the last time you showered? and What were you thinking?
But for the most part, I try to steer clear of asking my children their opinions for fear they'll give them to me and/or asking them to make a choice between one thing or the other as it simply starts the vicious cycle of insanity. I want to give my children choices but it always ends in brutality and bloodshed. When faced with the dilemma of chicken or fish for dinner, the kids will often strain their young peripheral vision to try to decipher what the other one is about to say so that each child can counter the other sibling's vote. Chicken or fish? It can sometimes be too much for them. The crazy hate spiral of spite is difficult when you are concentrating on whether the lips are about to form a C or an F. And so for simplicity sake, the answer to the question Chicken or Fish is often Pizza and Burgers.
It is fascinating to watch this occur since each child has a distinctly different personality. Emerson, ever the Worrier, wants to answer the question correctly as he hates being wrong but also doesn't want Flannery benefit from his compulsion for pleasing. Flannery, ever the Warrior, simply doesn't want what anyone else wants because that would be counter intuitive to her entire life's mission of world domination through pure stubbornness.
Questions of taste are often just a way to open a portal of chaos that only ends in violence or tears or violent tears. It's a lose/lose situation for us all. Except for Taco Night. We all agree on Taco Night. We just don't agree on how many times we have it per week. And the poor kids are saddled with a cruel mother who likes to cook and likes to try new recipes. I'm sure they gaze longingly at the other shoppers at the grocery store who are purchasing their weekly array of frozen food entrees that come equipped with the same ingredients every week. I know they will one day confide in their therapists that the trouble started when mom denied them Lunchables. And made them try clams....
I will say this, Emerson is much more likely to try something (and by that I mean actually try as opposed to pretend trying where the face starts to register how much the food is detested before the food has actually reached a single taste bud). Flannery will sit and stew and lock down before she will ever try something not on her very short list of things to try. By the way, the list mostly contains things she's already tried (read: Flogic).
But I dug in my heels and bought clams knowing it could make the dinner table a virtual battlefield. I'm nothing if not a glutton for punishment. Plus, I've enjoyed the fact that we've reached an age where I can say You need to try something but if you don't like it, you can make yourself a sandwich. Make yourself a sandwich is such a wonderful phrase for me. For a time, the family was convinced it was just as easy for me to make 4 different dinners for 4 very different appetites as it was for me to make one hated dinner and fight the good fight. You know, like they do in the restaurants. I present a menu, take orders and then produce the plates. No sweat!
Instead of springing it on them last minute, I had the kids help me in the kitchen. They helped ready the clams and shrimp. Quite willingly, to be honest. We added butter, olive oil, garlic and white wine. Threw in some pasta and herbs. And we feasted. Well, Reg and I feasted. Emerson enjoyed thoroughly (partially out of a burning desire to accentuate the difference between himself and his sister). And Flannery ate, claiming to enjoy it until she was given a wee bit of seconds (meaning two more clams). She then declared them gross and refused to eat another bite even going so far as to accidentally drop one of the remaining clams on the ground. And then the dinner dissolved into tears.
I figure three out of four is not bad. And Flannery won't admit but she liked them at one point in time. I'll take my victories even in droplet sized amounts. And I will buy clams again....