Take a Breath
"C'mon kiddo, dinner is ready let's head to the table!" I shout out to Amara as I make my way to our little breakfast table while carrying 2 plates and dragging a high chair closer to us. Quick tie her hair back so she's not chewing it along with her pasta or dragging marinara through her bangs. Make sure you have a bib or take Armaan's shirt off before he starts demanding to feed himself and paints orange squash everywhere. Do we have napkins? We're going to need napkins. What about water? Or is Amara going to just spill it all over the table?
We finally all get seated, but there's always something that's forgotten. As the baby is happily settled into his spoon and gnawing away, someone wants seconds and it's back to the kitchen for more. Mom finally gets a bite of food in her mouth when the toddler announces, "I'm done! Can I please leave the table?" How did she do that so fast?
Dinner has become a relay race. You have to start prepping by 4 if you want to be sure it's on the table close to 5. If you wait too long, kids are falling apart. If you serve it too early, they aren't hungry and eat 1 bite. If you have to get up, be sure the baby has something on that spoon before you get up.
Can you relate? I have started actually reciting in my head what I am putting in my mouth. "Here comes a tomato..." I keep hearing about being more present and "enjoy your food" from the professionals. What's that like? I feel like many meals take a few hours to prepare, but only 10 minutes to "enjoy." Most of the time I could barely tell ya what it tasted like. Why am I making such nutritious, multi-ingredient, multi- dish, recipes if I can't even savor them? I know in my heart it's food that's feeding the soul of my family, but I also want to be able to kiss my fingers to the sky "Voila!" I can't do that, unless I am truly experiencing what's going into my mouth. It's no wonder I have days where I run to the kitchen for more after the kids are asleep. As I am putting away the meal for another day, I am sneaking bites, licks, and tastes to get one more experience of the food. Sometimes I even grab a nibble off my kids plate that was left behind because I have forgotten if I've even eaten dinner. No wonder I have no sense of portion sizes.
I've been reading about emotional eating a lot lately. The sense of stress, time constraints, and desire to have it all go smoothly at mealtime is enough to drive any mom into mindless eating. It doesn't even have to be a sad day or celebration to feel out of control with food. We all have those things we tell ourselves sometimes when we go back to the kitchen for another bite when we know our tummy is already full- "I deserve it!" is one of my favorites. You want to eat when no one is around talking your ear off, stealing from your plate, or throwing what they don't want and is half eaten onto your plate. So you crave some mealtime alone, without eyes on you.
The past few days I have been sitting back and asking myself "how can I make this situation more enjoyable for me?" I could eat later with my husband when he gets home after the kids have gone to bed, but that also means much later. If I wait that long, I will definitely snack because it's been too long since the last meal. I also want to be able to sit as a family (all of us on weekends) so that the kids get a sense of what that's like. I want them to see the same foods on our plates as theirs- it's always been something I've been proud of. No, I definitely want to eat with them, but I need to create a sense of calm. What about helping the kiddos and myself take some breaths, and share a statement of gratitude before we dig into our meal? We aren't very religious people, but the statement doesn't have to be a traditional prayer. It could just be a statement where we thank the food from where it comes and the time to sit down together. It might be a way to slow down what we are about to do and make us more mindful about what's in front of us...what's on our plate...why did we choose to put that on our plate? It will mean being prepared as usual, having some ground rules as to when we can start the meal and also how to listen to the person sharing the gratitude. These are all great life skills anyway.
As I think about that word "mindful" I realize mealtime has been anything, but that. It's so hectic and I can almost feel my heart beating as we head to the table. Our kids are young, energetic, and still learning table manners. It's part of the season they are in. Someday I will wish for this season to return and they will be far too grown up to remember it. If we as caretakers could take some moments in the day to refresh ourselves mentally, I bet the end of the day could be more enjoyable. Whether it's reciting positive mantras, closing your eyes to get some quiet, or starting the day with a 5 or 10 minute meditation, we can tackle anything.
Join me this week as I focus on mindfulness and bringing more of it into my life. If you have questions about mindfulness, how to cope with stress, or questions/concerns about emotional eating, please feel free to reach out to me. I look forward to trying some new things with you!