By Jess Hernandez
They call them 30-minute meals, but let’s be real. Cooking with small kids is like trying to compete in Iron Chef while supervising a troop of drunk chimpanzees. On good days, it takes four times longer than I anticipated to make the recipe. On bad days, things catch fire, people cry, and we all end up eating PB & J. And there are a LOT of bad days. In fact, here’s what an average dinner at my house looks like from start to finish.
4:00 p.m. – Look online for 30 Minute Recipes. Find something I have ingredients for and fits everyone’s food allergies, preferences, and aversions.
4:20 p.m. – Remember my five-year-old daughter decided yesterday she won’t eat anything starting with the letter T. Recall the hell that was her three-month boycott of all things red. Decide it isn’t worth the battle and find a different recipe.
4:30 p.m. – Go to kitchen and notice stove and countertops are covered in dirty dishes. Unload and load the dishwasher.
5:00 p.m. – Realize I forgot to thaw the chicken. Swear. Try to defrost in microwave, only to have the meat thaw unevenly with blackened and frozen portions.
5:15 p.m. – Attempt to hack through frozen chicken parts and mutilate most of chicken breast.
5:20 p.m. – Notice my two-year-old son has a Lego figure in his mouth. Feverishly wash hands. Try to catch him before he chokes to death.
5:22 p.m. – Capture child and confiscate offending Lego guy.
5:23 p.m. – Resume disfiguring chicken.
5:30 p.m. – Put mangled chicken pieces in pan with oil and seasonings.
5:32 p.m. – Realize I forgot to add onions to the pan. Chop onions and sob, nearly amputating a finger since I can’t see.
5:40 p.m. – Add onions and garlic and stir chicken.
5:43 p.m. – Discover husband ate bacon (crucial ingredient!) yesterday as snack. Debate whether to substitute slightly expired lunch meat.
5:45 p.m. – Add lunch meat. (It doesn’t smell that bad).
5:46 p.m. – Find Little Mermaid Band-aid for daughter, who’s sobbing and demanding cuddles and first aid for non-existent owie.
5:47 p.m. – Break up fight between son and daughter, who are brawling over who gets to sit in my lap. Take both to time-out.
5:48 p.m. – Set time-out timer, accidentally erasing timer for chicken.
5:49 p.m. – Hunt for can opener.
5:52 p.m. – Find can opener in master bedroom laundry basket. (Thanks, son.)
5:53 p.m. – Remove pan from burner. Open doors and windows and turn on kitchen vent in attempt to silence fire alarm. Chase daughter who’s running next door to tell the neighbors to call 911 since the house is on fire. Convince her it’s just smoke and we won’t burn to death if we go back in the house. Comfort terrified son whom I left screaming in the kitchen.
5:54 p.m. – Transfer unburned food into new pan. Add canned chilis. Put pan on burner and cover.
5:55 p.m. – Grate cheese.
5:58 p.m. – Realize I didn’t turn the stove back on. Turn on burner. Notice the children have eaten half the cheese I just grated. Yell. Loudly.
5:59 p.m. – Get kids some apple slices so they’ll leave the cheese alone. Argue with daughter about why she can’t have ice cream instead.
6:01 p.m. – Stir chicken and add remaining ingredients.
6:02 p.m. – Remove breakfast dishes, art projects, and unopened mail from table.
6:05 p.m. – Greet husband while setting table.
6:06 p.m. – Argue with daughter about why she can’t have the blue sippy cup instead of the red one.
6:07 p.m. – Remove food from heat. Decide to skip transferring food to serving dishes and put the pan on hot pad on the table. Warn kids not to touch.
6:08 p.m. – Rinse screaming son’s fingers under cold water to cool first-degree burn. Tell daughter to get off the table.
6:10 p.m. – Hand crying son to husband and pour milk in cups. Yell as daughter kicks over one cup while jumping off the table.
6:11 p.m. – Mop up milk. Trip over dog. Yell at dog. Yell at daughter. Yell at husband. Mentally yell at self for not waiting until everyone was sitting to pour milk.
6:12 p.m. – Try to convince crying daughter to come back to table. Fantasize about leaving the house and not coming back till later, possibly next Thursday.
6:13 p.m. – Escort daughter to kitchen. Dish up food. Argue with daughter about amount and type of food on her plate. Pour more milk.
6:14 p.m. – Sit down for the first time in hours. Try not to rage when daughter asks for another spoon.
6:15 p.m. – Listen to husband suggest I try cooking less elaborate meals, like “one of those 30 Minute Meals they have on Pinterest.”
6:16 p.m. – Cry.
About the Author
Jess Hernandez is a writer, librarian, teacher and all-around word girl. A mom of two (soon to be three), she writes mostly humorous picture books and the occasional essay about parenting and mental illness. Find her on Twitter at @FinkHernandez.