Tonight I cooked dinner pretty much how I always do but took the weekly gamble on cooking for three instead if two.

When it works we all sit down to dinner and share a meal.

When it does not work we all sit down to dinner and I throw half the food away.

It is a bit of a gamble because the boys have hot school dinners.
I am occasionally asked for packed lunches, mainly so Prole2 can have cake every day and so Prole1 can take it with him to chess club.
Chess club is a big deal for Prole1. For Christmas he only got one present, a wooden games compendium which he places in his ‘special’ drawer.
He likes the moves, he likes the strategy and he likes talking about it.
Every Friday he plays chess in his class at lunch time and hot dinners means he is often late.

Prole1: I think I should have packed lunch because if I am going to be an athlete and represent the school at chess I need all the practice I can.

Me: I agree but an athlete needs a balanced diet as well, to be in tip top shape.

Prole1: I suppose so.

I don’t know how long that one will last but it has not come back on me yet.

The thing is, in my house I don’t force the boys to finish their dinner.
When they say they are finished they can leave the table.
It does not matter if they have not eaten a mouthful, if they say they are finished then they can leave the table.

I can pin point the moment I decided to do this.
1977, at the dinner table. We were all sitting round the table and my younger sister was being told off for not finishing her dinner.
My father said ‘If she won’t eat, let her starve’.
Naturally enough the attempts to get her to eat continued but I quietly thought this was the most sensible thing he ever said.
It made perfect sense.
My sister would be happy because she would not be forced to eat anything,
My other sister and I would be happy because there would be no more shouting.
My parents would be happy because they could eat their dinner.

After all, she might be right, she might be full.
Also, if she was hungry at the next meal, my sister would want to eat more.
Aged seven I decided that should I ever have children this is what I would do.

The Proles are never asked to finish their dinner.

There is a ‘but’.
The rule in my house is that if you say you are finished then there is no more food until the next scheduled meal/snack time.

 It goes against the grain but as long as you hold steady and weather the first storms the passage gets much smoother.

Prole1 has not eaten his dinner at all on one occasion.
It was a difficult night but I did not let him have anything except water until the next morning.
Breakfast was unusually early that day and he has never done it since.
Prole2 tried it twice.

Since then we have not had many arguments at dinner, at least about food.

The only thing I have actually FORCED the boys to try was Sugar Puffs.
I insisted Prole1 try one on the grounds that he liked all the constituent ingredients and therefore MUST stop being obtuse and didactic and try one.
After 25minutes he gave in, ate one, said it was very nice and NEVER ATE ONE AGAIN.

I feel awful about that.

Every system has flaws.
The way I deal with meal times throws up as many problems as it solves but it sort of works.
The Proles are a bit skinny though.

Tonight I cooked pork sausages for me and Prole2 and vegetarian sausages for Prole1.

As I was cooking I kept thinking I had done something wrong.
That feeling that I had forgotten something.
Just a little, you know, odd feeling that I had missed something.

I even dished everything up.
Put it on the plates.
Mash, peas, sweetcorn, broccoli, and sausages. Gravy on the side.

Prole2: Good one Dad. Food.

Me: Thank you. That means a lot.

Prole2: I love food.

Me: Good. Glad I can make you happy. What did you have for lunch?

Prole2: Roast. Roast potatoes, roast vegetables and meat.

Me: Good.

This is not good however, roast is a popular meal with the Proles and this means they probably would not eat all their dinner.
This is the downside to not forcing them to consume every scrap of food I create.
I end up eating it all as bubble and squeak at 11o’clock at night.

Me: How about you, the same?

Prole1: Yep. vegetarian roast of course.

Me: Of course….

Then I remembered that I had cooked the sausages all in one dish.

Prole1 was already tucking in to his vegetarian sausages, which for the first time had been cooked in pork fat.

I sort of watched him.

Prole1: What?

Me: Nothing. dinner ok?

Prole1: Fine. Nice. Very nice thank you very much for asking.

Me: Ok…good…fine.

That’s right.
I decided not to tell.
In the full and certain knowledge that at some point I will have to confess this to him and he will rack it up with Sugar Puffs as one of the great psychologically damaging food issues he will have to deal with for the rest of his life, I let my vegetarian son, a child who under his own moral judgement has been a vegetarian for 4 years now, Prole1, offspring of a militant vegan, eat those sausages.

And we finished dinner and the Proles ate the lot.