While one of the definitions of fourth meal from the urban dictionary reads, “a corporate conspiracy to further addict the hapless masses to crappy, fat-laden food.” (obviously referring to the Taco Bell campaign), I have a different definition.
Fourth Meal: The meal that comes after dinner to torture parents right before bedtime.
Yes. Somehow, we have gotten in the habit of fourth meals in this house. And, I’m dying to stop!
Case in point:
Tonight, I was gone for a church activity, and we had lots of leftover cupcakes at the activity. So, I brought a few home for the kids. My husband had made a delicious Thai themed dinner of salmon, rice noodles and whatever else he concocted while I was gone. When I left the house, I was confident the kids would have a healthy well-balanced meal thanks to the my husband who is a really great cook. But, then I walked in with cupcakes, and stupidly announced, “Who wants a cupcake??” Kids came running from every part of the house (why do 3 kids seem like so many?) and I realized my awesome husband had them all bathed too. Bonus points!
The kids immediately started devouring their cupcakes, and I was happy to bring them a treat after dinner….you know, they had the Thai Salmon Rice noodles thingy….so they deserved a cupcake. As they were gleefully shoving sugar into their mouths, I noticed candy wrappers on the floor. “Oh! Did you guys already have a piece of candy?” Yes. They had candy. Then, I glanced over to the table and noticed popcorn that had been popped. “Oh! You had popcorn too?” At this point, they started giggling knowing they had pulled one over on mommy. Then, I realized what was in the mugs that were sitting on the counter. Mugs with remnants of eggnog. “WHAT!? They had eggnog too?” I now started directing the questions at my husband. He didn’t respond and pretended to be very busy doing some homework on the computer, while the almost two year old shoved another glob of icing in his mouth.
They finally finished their fourth meal (although in this circumstance it sounds like it was meal number 5 if we count the popcorn, eggnog and candy they had after dinner). And as they were licking their blue, icing crusted lips, I asked the four year old to go brush his teeth. He responded, “We already did!” Of course, you did!
My kids were bathed, with teeth brushed, and I ruined it all with my stupid announcement of “Who wants cupcakes!?”
Fourth meal is killing me.
I don’t know why, but there is so much satisfaction in cleaning my kitchen after dinner. To see the clean counters, and to know that I’m done with feeding my kids for the day is so wonderful. Yet, it never fails that as soon as we bring up the subject of brushing teeth, someone says they’re hungry. And, most of the time, I believe they are.
I know what most of you are going to say, “I don’t give it to them! They can just go to bed hungry. My kids get one meal at night and if they don’t like it…tough!” I hear you moms shaking your heads and fingers at me. I know you don’t feel sorry for me. And the truth is, I don’t feel sorry for me either. I just feel tired of wiping those counters and sweeping those floors for a fourth time each day. When I’m the MOST tired. Usually fourth meal ends up being the laziest, easiest meal of the day. It’s awful. And hardly nutritious.
Sometimes I do stick to my guns and say, “Well, you should have eaten a better dinner”, but when I think back to the meal we just ate, hoping that they will finally like the taste of quinoa after being exposed to it for the 341st time, and realized they didn’t exactly “eat”. I sometimes cave in, and a fourth meal is whipped up. Maybe it’s a cupcake, maybe it’s leftover mac and cheese, sometimes it’s oatmeal, but fourth meal is pure torture for me. The kids? They live for fourth meal!!
If Taco Bell had been smart, they would have marketed fourth meal to toddlers everywhere. Kids would have been ALL over it.
Tell me that some of you have fourth meal in your house too!? Am I ruining my kids forever? Probably not. Am I teaching them that mom might just feel enough guilt to let them eat Fruit Loops after dinner if they pretend to hate quinoa for the 341st time. Possibly.
So I have to ask a hard question for me to answer. Do I continue to make Thai Salmon Rice Noodle Quinoa type meals and plan on a fourth meal, or do we just live on macaroni and cheese until they’re teenagers? It’s a toss up, really.