Sunday, May 07, 2006

Dinner Envy

I am beginning to suspect one of my neighbors of "dinner envy." She is a little younger than I am, with two small children (ages 5 and 2); often her husband's job takes him away from home at the dinner hour. On nice days we usually find ourselves at the back fence, helping the little ones over the fence as they scramble from yard to yard. The conversation always turns toward "what are you having for dinner?"

I know that she loves to cook, as I do. I also know that her family's palates are not nearly as adventuresome as mine. And while she doesn't actually say so, I know that sometimes she's wishing she were eating at my house (though when I invite her, she always declines).

This afternoon as we chatted by the fence, Big Brother wandered over to ask what would be for dinner tomorrow (why he needs to know this more than 24 hours in advance, I have no idea). I sent him inside to check the menu. "You mean you plan your dinners for a whole month? I could never do that. You have no idea what it would look like."

I tried to reassure her that yes, she could plan her meals, but she doesn't believe me. I'm guessing she'll spend the summer cooking and dining vicariously through me. She thinks I have it all together where this is concerned. Not true--at all! What I do have is more experience (I'm 9 years ahead of her when it comes to feeding kids) and more flexibility because there is very little that I will cook that my family will not at least try. (Except for tuna casserole and Brussels sprouts. They all draw the line there.)

I would really like to find a way to help her--to show her that yes, she can plan dinners for a month if she wants to--but more than that to give her the boost I feel she desperately needs. She needs to know that her little one won't be a toddler forever; that someone will eventually be willing to eat fish; that it does get easier, at least in the matter of getting food into the kids. I know she's so bogged down by the mothering part right now.

Any suggestions on how I can encourage my neighbor would be greatly appreciated.

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