Dinner Games

On the rare occasion, I am a genius.  It's not something easy to admit to yourself when you live such a humble life.  Excuse me while I kiss my biceps, they are huge.  My forearms are like firehoses.

In my life though I have learned that when inspiration happens, especially when it's unexpected and requiring no effort on your part, you must seize it like a hooker seizes a crack pipe, with both hands and a stutter in your speech. To let such inspiration pass you by is not only morally wrong, it is a sin against the almighty Spaghetti Monster.

As a parent I find that one of my most stressful parts of the day is dinner time.  What should be nice quiet engaging conversations with loved ones has, over the last 7 years, turned into a Thunderdome of thrown food, dodged forks, floods of spilt milk and the tears to go with it.  And early on in your parental career you realize that teaching table manners is not really a month long process but one that evolves over the entire life of your children.  Eventually you may just get to a point though where you just want to eat your hamburger in peace and you could give two shits if the dog just licked it.  Yes, table manners also concerns pets as well. 

However, there does come a time where food is no longer being thrown, forks are not clanging on the floor as much and the milk remains untouched.  This is not because the little people have learned any real table manners it's just that they are at the age where they hate everything that you cook for them.  The game of dodgeball meatball eventually morphs into that's gross I don't want to eat that meatball.

This of course causes me to say in my Dad voice "eat your dinner or bunnies will die."  It's harsh but sometimes I find that through fear you can get cooperation, so sayeth Stalin.  But this does begin to wear on your soul a bit.  You don't like the inevitable fight that will come, you don't like the exasperated sighs that your 9 month pregnant wife will give you, you don't want to see the dogs eating better than you.

Tonight was going to be such a night.  Chicken and pasta, completely bland so as not to offend any one at the table that didn't take anytime to cook it.  I love most when I get upturned noses, looking at you Hossmom, when you spend a good hour and a half doing something like this.

But something changed in me, the light shown in my eyes and through years of exasperated sighs, came an idea.  An inspiration from God himself, given to this poor lost soul wandering through the wilderness that is family dinner night.

We introduced a new game.  It's called "Eat Your God Damned Dinner."  Of course, this is only a working tittle, I haven't decided what it's going to be called once it's published.  Probably something like "Daddy Is Buying a New Miter Saw."  I like that one.

It's a simple game and has simple rules, rules that I just made up on the spot as I sat down to eat my bland chicken and pasta.

It's starts with the pasta.  Each piece you eat is worth 1 point.  One glorious point.  If being an American means anything, it's that we always want points.  We crave points.  And not only do we desire the points with ever fiber of our being, we don't want anyone else to have points.  We want all the points.  No points for you.  All points from me.  Then it's quiz time.

We started simple:  What rhymes with Hat?  To answer, pick your point, eat it and if you give a correct answer (or not, it doesn't really matter once the pasta is devoured) you keep your point.  We go around the table.  Think of it as Jeopardy where food represents the points and the nice quiet conversation represents my mind.

Of course, every game needs a  daily double.  If you find that you are lagging in points, which Dad makes sure to tell everyone, you can eat a piece of chicken and then answer.  The chicken is worth 2 points, 2 glorious points which is more points than that other slob got that you want to beat.

Basically I have just turned eating dinner into a competition.  Genius.

Soon, the minions stopped caring about what the food looked liked or tasted like, they cared how much it was worth.  Do you know the possibilities this could open up??  Carrots, 3 points.  Brocilli, 3 points, lima beans, 10 points because they are so fucking disgusting.  Steak, 0 points because I don't want anyone eating my steaks.  Steaks are for Dads, not kids.

Now what is the reward, what is the prize?  Well, for starters, two kids that just woofed down a well balanced meal but we don't mention that.  Here is the best part, there is no prize!  Oh, I may make some sort of trophy in the garage out of electrical tape and a screw, but who cares.  The points are what mattes and every American is born wanting them, it's in our genes.  No one has to tell us that we want points, we just do.  When you are born, secretly in your baby's brain you are giving yourself points for the dismount while coming out of Mom and judging the bitch Russian nurse who gave you the low marks.

Now I understand that I have to keep this game interesting, that soon they will get bored with rhyming games and that's fine.   We'll just change it up a bit.  Instead of rhyming we will all try to think of names for the new baby.  The winner gets to name the new kid.  Sure, my kids want to name the new kid Bacon and if they eat squash, I just may let them do it.  After names, we'll start spelling ( sometimes Dad has to lose to), or we will say riddles.  Truth is, I don't care.  It doesn't matter, only the points do.

And eventually, when they move out of my house and get married.  They will be sitting down for a nice dinner somewhere with friends, cool post college kids with weird haircuts and even more weird ideas about the world.  They'll take a minute, trying to figure out what rhymes with "cereal" while they subconsciously award themselves 5 points for putting cooked spinach in their mouth.

And me?  Well, I'll be eating bacon and snack cakes at my very quiet and enjoyable dinner table. 

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