I can recall the days when spaghetti brought to mind romantic pasta dinners over candle light with my lover. (or Matt Damon.) I daydreamed of a favorite restaurant where we would get a quit corner table. Or, perhaps he would set up a beautiful setting in his own dining room, complete with a lacey table cloth, the finest dishes, candles and bottle of the perfect vino. We’d sit and lovingly savor each bite as if the meal was our very last, discussing the moments of our day and saying whatever whimsical things would come to our minds… Maybe we would even be serenaded or at least have soft music setting the ambiance while we decided if we still had enough room for a rich decadent chocolate dessert…
Yeah, well… those days pretty much ended for my husband and I once our little ones came along. (Actually, to be truthful, those days never really existed for my husband and I, because he’s not much for romance and I worked for the Olive Garden for far too long to really enjoy the Italiano atmosphere without getting paid..) Luckily, though, I still get the opportunity to enjoy a simple pasta and sauce meal with my family frequently. Turns out that my children are extraordinarily picky, (whereas I’ll eat just about anything that fits on my fork, so I think this must have been inherited from their Y chromosome), but they love to eat spaghetti, hold the meatballs. Well… I don’t know if eat is the right word, precisely, but let’s suffice it to say they enjoy a good spaghetti dinner on most occasions.
Today, Benjamin got it stuck in his head he was starving for spaghetti. Generally, my husband is in charge of the meals. Although he’d make anything I asked for on most occasions, and might actually enjoy the input so that he had less decision making to do, I rarely give a lot of input, unless we’re picking out a pizza. This day though, is the rare day when Ryan is working and I am home with the kiddos, and it just so happens that spaghetti is one of like 3 or so things that i actually know how to cook, so Ben is in luck. Soon we’ll be getting dressed and going grocery shopping so that we can surprise Daddy with a home cooked meal.
I always say that my boys are very much alike, and yet as different as the sun and the moon, (as evident by the name of my blog), but a spaghetti dinner is such a nice way to showcase the differences in my children. First of all, my kids are united in that they are both very, very, VERY particular about what pleases their palates. There are very few meals that make them both happy, and so often we end up making a sandwich for one or the other of them as a substitute for the dinner which we prepared, and we are always pushing vitamins to make up the difference. (Though Ben does not like vitamins because he does not like fruit flavors… sigh) Somehow, though, there is something magic enough about spaghetti that both of my boys will eat it and so this is one meal that we all find to be a family favorite. Yet, the way the boys enjoy spaghetti is so different that it becomes quite amusing.
Let’s start with Jake’s take on spaghetti. I chose to start with Jake first, because my day actually started with Jake gently waking me up to let me know that he had cleaned the living room, just to make me happy and to earn more video game time for his day. (Very nice surprise, and he actually did a very nice job.) Now, Jake does not like the food on his plate to touch any of the other food on his plate, or he will not eat it. And although I try to explain again and again that it all ends up the same place, he still insists on dividing up his portions and eating each item one at a time until he feels his stomach is full. Yet, somehow, spaghetti is combined before it hits his plate, and so in his mind, it is only one food. When we have spaghetti, he has only to keep his garlic bread off to the side, and has no worries of his corn getting in his macaroni and cheese or something similar. Jake tries to be very precise when he eats his spaghetti. To him, this is a meal that is easier to consume, oddly, and so he enjoys the simplicity along with the flavor. He generally eats a single plate of spaghetti, picks up his dishes, and leaves the table to continue with whatever game play was going on prior to calling him to dinner.
Now, let’s turn our attention to little brother Ben. I wake up most days as Ben is showering my face with kisses, poking me, opening up my eyelids, whispering his dreams in my ear or something equally as cute but obnoxious. Now, Ben has never once cleaned anything, even when asked, without a lot of prodding and guidance. (Sadly, I fear this was inherited on his X chromosome…) In fact, most times, you’ll find Ben creating some sort of artistic mess if you are not keeping him under a very watchful eye. And more so, there are times when he is allowed to somehow create an even bigger mess in a completely acceptable way, and that time, for Ben, is SPAGHETTI TIME! There is no “calling” Ben to dinner when spaghetti is on the menu, as he’ll be standing in the kitchen stalking you while you’re cooking. As you’re setting the table, he’s playing drums with the silverware. When you ask him to quit drumming, you cringe when it’s quit because that probably means he’s shaking the Parmesan cheese all over so that he can get it on his fingers to taste it. When you finally set the meal on the table and call everyone to eat, Ben is already covered in cheese flakes. Ryan and I generally cut Ben’s spaghetti into small pieces, to lessen the mess that he will inevitably make trying to get spaghetti from his plate to his mouth. Twirling noodles around a fork is not something that works for Ben. In fact, even pushing cut up noodles onto his fork takes too much effort when he is starving for spaghetti, and so Ben usually resorts to shoveling handfuls of spaghetti into his mouth to save time. And what’s really surprising is that though this child almost never eats, he will eat plate after plate of spaghetti, to the point that I begin to worry he might actually burst. When Ben is finally stuffed, or we run out of spaghetti, either way, he doesn’t just remove himself from the table. He usually gets up, and comes over to hug and kiss me because he is so happy to have had spaghetti. (And of course, at this point, he is covered in red sauce and so I do my best to quickly side step his affection.) A family spaghetti night always ends with Ben in the bathtub far before we would’ve ordinarily prompted him to start his bed time rituals.
For Ryan and I, spaghetti is an easy meal that both kids will eat and enjoy. For Jake, spaghetti is an easy, laid back simple meal that doesn’t involve the hassle of policing one food from touching another. For Ben, it’s a race. Ready? Set! Spaghetti!