Pieces of Me

Spaghetti Induced Anxiety

Two breathe taking weeks. Lungs full of ocean air. Sun kissed skin. Sinking into the sand were the long nights, aching shoulders and heavy thoughts of the year that passed.

Our summer escape was spent driving along the eastern coast of Australia, stopping at different places, feeling insignificant to the view and the beauty of this country. Without the constraint of routine and the fast-paced life we lead for most of the year, we found time to reconnect and indulge in each other’s presence.

Long cuddles in the morning and even longer cuddles at night, were the perfect way to start and end each day. With the freedom to explore beaches and be swept by the surf my boys for the most part, were very well behaved. The odd argument in the car and the occasional bickering over whether we would spend the day at the pool or the beach – life was good.

Until it was time to eat. As the day drew to a close and the sun slowly began to set, deep in my stomach was a subtle bubbling of anxiety. While on holidays cooking was completely struck off my list. So we ate out for all meals. The boys were usually ravished at breakfast and lunch, so they couldn’t eat fast enough and then kicked back with their ipods. Dinner time was different. Their sun kissed faces were tired. Exhausted. They wanted to sleep, wanted to eat, wanted to play. They didn’t know what they wanted to do for most of the time.

While every restaurant was different, in every aspect they were also the same.

“Do you have a kids menu?”

The same fare on each one. Chicken nuggets and chips. Fish and chips. Mini pizza. Then the one I absolutely dread – spaghetti bolognese. I could easily choose not to order this. The only problem was, this was the one that PJ would eat. Without fuss or complaint.

“Can I substitute penne instead of spaghetti?”

More often than not, the answer was a blank, flat “no.”

spaghetti induced anxiety

Thus began my escalating anxiety. Twirling spaghetti onto a fork, then trying to manoeuvre the fork and its contents into the mouth of a three year old is nothing short of an Olympic sport. Sauce dripping from one side, spaghetti slipping off the other side, PJ turning his head at the last minute to speak to his Dad, me missing his mouth completely, only to have all the spaghetti down his front! Every night!

If I could rewrite the entire scenario with penne, the whole story would be completely different. Two penne at a time, straddled onto a fork. Bang into his mouth – ready for the next serve!

Coupled with my constant juggling act at the table of stopping glasses full of drink being spilled, waiters being tripped by little legs suddenly jutting out from tables and mood-setting tea light candles being treated like a never ending birthday candle – dinner time almost killed me!

spaghetti induced anxiety

Luckily, the action packed days often meant that the boys fell into an exhausted sleep early on in the night. So hubby and I could enjoy a quiet glass of wine, while waves were crashing in the distance. A moment to catch our breath again. On one of those nights, I turned to hubby and said “I don’t feel so guilty about not taking the boys with us on our next trip anymore. One whole week of eating dinner without any anxiety or spaghetti bolognese – that is what I am looking forward to most!”

What makes your anxiety rise at dinner time?

  • For the life of me, I can’t understand how or why they won’t substitute penne for the spaghetti. I hate using spaghetti. My son Alexander loves Spaghetti Bolognese ,but let me tell you – I can’t remember the last time we actually used spaghetti. We always use Penne, or spirals. So much easier.

    As for what I dread about dinner time? I dread dinner time. Everything about it. Samuel has major, huge food {and smell and texture} aversions. Dinner time for a lot of parents with autistic children is tough. But Sam is so much worse than Alexander ever was. Dinner time has been the time of day that has made me feel sick to my stomach for years now. Never fails.

    • One particular night, the waitress even was sympathetic to my attempt to feed the worm that PJ was being. She offered to go and check if she could persuade them to substitute in penne. Spaghetti still was served!

  • bodyandfeetretreat

    Just read your post re your next trip – how exciting !!!!! It will be hard but so worth it. Our ‘baby’ is turning 21 this year and we are so enjoying holidays and weekends away doing exactly what we want to do – but that doesn’t stop me feeling guilty sometimes about leaving her at home !!!!
    Have the best day !

  • LydiaCLee

    Next trip? That’s what I do – the minute I’m back I’m planning or booking the next one!! Love it! (but you may find you miss them when you go without them. I just end up thinking how I want to show them what I’ve seen…)

  • Cathy

    I’m surprised nobody would substitute penne! But being of Italian heritage, here’s a handy trick for next time. When my youngest eats spaghetti, I cut it up with a knife and fork into much smaller pieces and then can feed him with a spoon. Saves a lot of heartache! Can still be messy but less messy than spaghetti going in all directions. At least he wasn’t having meltdowns in every restaurant you went to – that happened to me a couple of holidays ago!

    • oh my goodness! your spoon trick is brilliant! I think you have saved my sanity xx

  • Catherine RodieBlagg

    My 3yo is such a fussy eater I think I’d be delighted if she would eat anything – regardless of the mess. My anxiety is caused by her getting board and wanting to get down from the table and cause mayhem elsewhere.

  • Leanne Shea Langdown

    I always ordered penne for my two when they were young. And also didn’t let them wear white on a night out. Bolognaise is a nightmare to try and wash out! Failing that I would chop the whole bowl of spaghetti diagonally and sideways so that the pieces would go on a spoon. Not as fun as twirling but it somewhat alleviated my spaghetti anxieties,
    Happy Friday!
    Leanne @ Deep Fried Fruit

  • I try to convince the Big Sister to choose the pasta from the kids menu – but invariably she opts for yellow food – nuggets and chips/ fish and chips – I’m always relieved when we arrive home and I can get some veggies into the girls!
    P.S. I never feel guilty about an adults-only holiday. They don’t happen often, but it’s great to spend a few days not calling each other Mummy and Daddy!

  • If the kids are tired (I have a 3 yo too) and if the food is messy – yep, that’s a recipe for stress. The solution is to let them eat outside so the birds can finish off their mess, and bath AFTER dinner (when I usually prefer before dinner as it calms them down.) Otherwise, full aprons 🙂

  • Oh man, I can see why that would be anxiety-inducing!

    My anxiety over dinner time is simply that I have to cook something for Mia the weeks that Dave isn’t home to do it. I’m not a great cook, I hate to do it, and more often than not Mia ends up eating a hodge-podge of different stuff I’ve thrown together. Last night I was too tired to be bothered cooking anything and in the end she ate some Baby-Bel cheese, ham, strawberries and yoghurt. Which isn’t a bad dinner, but its not the usual steamed veggies she has. But at least she had steamed veggies every other night this week so I can’t feel too bad about it. I think tonight it will be some fish fingers and pasta, as long as it’s not too hot to turn the oven on, otherwise it will just be pasta with tuna or some other form of protein mixed in!

  • Kate

    Oh the messy spaghetti.
    Thank goodness for wine!

    I guess this is something in my near future! oh so much to look forward too

  • Sophie Allen

    Kids menu’s need a bit of an update hey. We also ate out almost every night for 2 weeks, with our 4, plus my sister’s 4 children. And actually, we did learn that it wasn’t so bad. They all ate (amazingly) and we didn’t have any major hassles. We had previously avoided eating out at all costs, because of some of the same issues as you described. But we thought we will definitely do it more often this year.

  • Sometimes I have used a knife and fork to chop all the spaghetti into small pieces and used a spoon. Still very messy though. It’s enought to make me glad mine tend to go for chicken nuggets and chips when we go out – yuck!!!

  • Yes, spaghetti is anxiety provoking! At least they eat though! Glad you enjoyed your holiday. Sounds fun. xx

  • Actually, I love seeing the boys get messy with spaghetti. It’s hilarious seeing them pucker up their lips, sucking in the noodles. Although, I must say, it’s better to be doing it in the comforts of your own home!

  • Rice! Can’t stand the stuff! It gets everywhere, stuck under your feet and it’s awful!!! I hate to serve rice

  • Clare Kennedy

    Dinner time itself gets me worried. I have a fussy 20month year old to battle feeding at the moment, so I would not even consider eating out for dinner! Unless its fish and chips down at the foreshore. Where are you off to on your next trip?! Clare x

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