New Rule

New Rule: All food must remain and be eaten in the kitchen.

This new rule that I enacted last week has revolutionized our lives. It all started because I decided that I was going to steam clean the living room carpet. It looked horrible and we’ve only lived in this house for two years. The fact that it is white doesn’t help. So I figured it if I was going to the trouble of getting the carpet cleaned then I didn’t want it messed up again immediately. Plus I was tired of finding half-eaten pieces of food everywhere and hauling out the vacuum three and four times a week to clean up crumbs, especially since my two-year-old has started grinding up food with her foot just for fun. Having a new baby really puts into perspective what is not working around the house.

I thought the kids might fight me on this more, but my rationale about cleaning the carpet seemed to make sense to them. I knew the biggest issue, though, was the habit they had of eating while watching television. It is something that I have enjoyed doing as well, and often the most convenient time to eat is while nursing, which usually occurs in the living room. While they were not happy about not being able to chow down in front of the tube anymore, they have taken it in stride. I had no idea what a big deal this aspect of the rule would prove to be in another way.

As a result of our new rule, I’ve found a way to break the thrall of television. One of my bad points as a parent is that I have allowed my children to watch way too much television, especially my oldest. I am
not going to segue this into a post about my opinions on the pros and cons of television, although that would make an interesting topic. I am just stating that I have always felt that I should cut back on my kids television viewing time, but I haven’t had the gumption to follow through consistently.

Now the kids must decide what is more important to them, eating or watching television. If they are watching t.v. I wait for the break between shows, change it to the classical music channel, and steer them to the kitchen; by the time they are finished eating they often think of something to do besides watch television. I no longer have to deal with the tag team combination of television and slow eating to delay bedtime, either. (“But, mom, I’m not done eating yet….10 minutes later…I’m done eating, but, mom, I need to see the end of this show.”)

You’re probably asking why I didn’t have this common sense rule to begin with. I know that I have asked myself the same question. But I think I have some pretty good reasons in my defense. First of all, my husband and I errantly thought that just because we enjoy snacking while we watch television the kids should be allowed to as well. We didn’t account for the fact that my husband and I are less likely to make a big mess with whatever we are eating. We are also more able and likely to clean up after ourselves when we do. We are also less likely to try experiments like how many particles can I mash this package of crackers into?

Secondly, while we had a large kitchen in our previous apartment, it wasn’t a real eat-in kitchen. And before DD#2 was born we had a cat whose litter box was set up in the far corner of that kitchen. To keep our first-born from confusing a litter box with a sandbox or risk her getting burned when we cooked, she was blocked from ever entering the kitchen. It’s harder to establish that food must remain in the dining room when it is just one side of the living room. Plus, when you know that the cost of replacing the carpet will not fall on you, it is easier to be cavalier about it.

When we moved into our townhouse, I did declare that no food or drink other than water would be allowed upstairs. I could just imagine the things that could rot in hidden crevices behind beds and buried under toys in the play room. Again we put up a gate to the kitchen, even though it is a huge eat-in kitchen. I think we did partly because we had done it at the old place, and even though we no longer had a cat (he was psycho) we were still anxious to keep little ones out of the kitchen while we were cooking. But after my husband and I each slammed into the gate fifty billion times thinking that we had opened it (but it had really stuck) and ripped some small chunks from the mounting walls, we threw the gate out.

So from this day on I look forward to not having to vacuum as much, not having ten tons of gunk ground in the carpet, not finding rotten food in strange places, not digging tons of cheerios and various other goodies out of the couch (especially when I talk my husband into getting a new one), and not worrying about what the baby is going to get her mouth on once she starts crawling around. And maybe once DD#3 is mostly potty-trained we can see about getting rid of this horrible white carpet all together, but that will be a few years down the road.

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