My Least Favorite Question
By Diane Stark
“Mom, what’s for dinner?”
I sighed. It was 7am, and my children were eating breakfast. And one of them just asked me what’s for dinner. It happened nearly every morning.
Finally, after being asked about dinner over breakfast one time too many, I asked, “Why do you guys ask me that all the time? It’s not like I make liver and force you to eat it.”
My middle son, Jordan, shrugged. “I just like knowing ahead of time.”
“But why? You like everything I make.”
“I know I’ll like whatever it is. But if I know in the morning, I can make sure I’m in the mood for that kind of food come dinner time.” Jordan smiled. “I like being prepared.”
I laughed. In a strange way, it made sense.
For a few weeks, I tried posting a dinner menu on the fridge so the kids wouldn’t have to ask me what we were having. But all too often, I got busy and ended up having to change the dinner plans at the last minute.
This led to a lot of griping.
“Spaghetti?” A child would inevitably say. “But the menu said we were having chicken parmesan.”
“I know, but I got busy today and didn’t make it to the grocery store. I don’t have all of the ingredients for chicken parmesan, but I always have the stuff for spaghetti.”
My little complainer would then notice that the menu said we were having spaghetti later that week. “So do we have to eat spaghetti again on Thursday? Or are you going to make the chicken parmesan then?”
“I don’t know, Honey. It depends on how busy I am.”
“Your dinner menu ends up being wrong so often,” the griper continued. “I get in the mood for a certain dinner and then that’s not what you make. It’s very annoying.”
I decided to put an end to the posted menu – since I found my children’s annoyance with it extremely annoying.
When my youngest daughter was eight, she made what she thought was a fabulous suggestion. “Mom, since there are seven people in our family and there are seven days of the week, you should let each person choose what’s for dinner one night each week. We can just come home from school and tell you what we want when it’s our day to choose.”
While, logically, her suggestion made sense, logistically, it would be a nightmare for me. “Baby, that’s not going to work,” I told her. “I don’t have time to go to the grocery store every day to shop for ingredients for specific meals each day.” Her face fell. “But I think we could do it weekly,” I added.
I explained that one night each week, I could make someone’s special request. “But when it’s your week, you’d have to tell me what you want by Sunday night,” I said. “That way, I’d have plenty of time to buy the ingredients, and I could make the meal on a night that was convenient for me.” I smiled. “So each of you kids could choose our dinner one time each month.”
Julia nodded. “It’s not as good as every week, but I guess that will work.”
For many years, that’s the way we did things. Each of my kids would submit a request, and sometime that month, I would make each child’s favorite meal.
For the past 18 years, “What’s for dinner?” has been my least favorite question. I actually don’t mind cooking, but I despise figuring out what to make.
But for 18 years, I’ve been asked that question every single day, often while I’m still wearing pajamas and before I’ve had my first cup of coffee. It was not a question I enjoyed being asked.
But now, in some bizarre way, I kind of miss it. My three oldest children have jobs now, and they aren’t home for dinner every night the way they used to be. They don’t ask me what we’re having because they plan to grab pizza or tacos at the restaurants where they work.
These days, I’m the one asking the questions.
“What nights this week are you working?” I ask them. “Which nights will you be home for dinner? What would you like me to make on the nights you’ll be home?”
It’s so strange the way time works. For years now, little old ladies have stopped me in the grocery store, urging me to enjoy my children while they were little.
I think I took their advice to heart… for the most part.
But if you’d told me a few years ago that I would someday miss being asked the “what’s for dinner” question over breakfast, I would not have believed it.
But now, strangely, I do miss it a little. Maybe not the question itself. But I miss being needed by my children.
Thankfully, I still have two children who cannot yet work due to child labor laws. My youngest daughter is 14, and she already misses dinner on a regular basis due to basketball games and time with friends. But, she does need me to drive her to these games and friends’ houses.
For a little while anyway.
My youngest son is only eight, so I’ve got some time with him yet. He’ll be posing the “what’s for dinner” question for several more years. Thankfully, he still needs help with his homework, he still wants to be tucked into bed at night, and he still likes to snuggle with me while he watches The Lego Movie.
But I know how quickly time passes. What felt like it would last forever 18 years ago has now gone by in the blink of an eye.
I don’t know how it happened, and I wish I could make it stop.
I can’t, so instead, I’ll cook their favorites when they’re home and pray over them when they’re gone.
And I’ll smile – not sigh – when one of them asks me my least favorite question over breakfast.
About this writer
- Diane Stark is a wife and mom of five. She loves to write about her family and her faith. Her essays have been published in over 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.
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