Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Thou shalt not stress out !

You cook a nice meal, set a lovely table, want everything to be perfect, and what happens? The partner is late, the kids fight, the phone rings, someone's favorite TV show's on, a thoughtless remark about the rice being too sticky—and, suddenly, everything's ruined!! All that hard work for nothing! Nothing! Why do I bother! No-one appreciates it! I'm through! Never again!
The chewing stops.
They all look at you, eyes wide.
Nobody speaks.
It seems you have lost it again.

Is this scene familiar?  (It is to me.)

Here are a few tips to de-stress your family meals for the benefit of all.

For chronic late arrivals, favor dishes which are not time sensitive or, even better, which improve while sitting quietly in a turned-off oven.
If you are doing all the work alone and resenting it, farm out certain tasks. Peeling vegetables, can be done together while talking or watching TV. Children can take turns setting and clearing the table. And, if no help is forthcoming, dinners can be simplified to what you are comfortable with. A hotdog, say.
If the tension is coming from your children—fights over schoolwork, sibling rivalry, picky eating, whatever—there's no miracle solution. But you can try to identify the cause and deal with it away from mealtimes. There's no reason to repeat the same fight night after night.
If a family member criticizes your cooking, offer to share the burden. Not in a snarky way, but for real. Let everyone take a turn preparing dinner. Or at least part of dinner. Who knows, they might discover they like to cook and are good at it. Or maybe that a good meals requires effort which should be appreciated.
In any event, relax. Family meals are not for show. The curtain does not go up. There is no applause. Just, hopefully, a little quiet, pleasant time for you and your loved ones. Whenever and however you all prefer. At the table if possible. In front of the TV if there's no other way.

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