Dinner used to be a pleasurable time of the day, writes Mark Hotton in And Baby Makes Four.
A chance to sit down, relax, enjoy a meal prepared with love by Suz or I, perhaps even a cheeky wine to accompany the food. A chance to savour each other's company.
Now it's a battle of wits and attrition. A battle we seem to be losing.
Zach has never been one for being adventurous with food. We tried exposing him to lots of tastes early on and for a short time it seemed as though he'd feast on anything but then he discovered toast and all seems to be lost.
We often had to force food into his mouth just for him to try it - have you ever heard of a young nipper who has to be force fed icecream? More than once? Or one who won't eat jelly? Like I've said before, you can't reason with a 2-year-old.
So mealtimes can be a challenge with him. But when you throw into the mix an 8-week-old who decides to squawk like a peacock with its head stuck in an elevator every time her mother sits down for a feed, they get even messier. Why she decides to spark up every time Suz goes to eat - or how she even knows - is beyond me. But it's a challenge for Suz to eat a meal while holding the baby and I can't really help out because I'm trying to cajole Zach into eating something.
At the moment he appears to be on a "white food only" approach, which pretty much means potatoes. And some fish and chicken, although you can also get some pork into him if you tell him it's chicken.
For a time he was demolishing his mashed vegetables, a veritable rainbow kaleidoscope of food, but he's obviously cottoned on that it was good for him. He used to be good at Grandma's too, but now he's trying to push the boundaries.
To be fair, he is eating like a good Southland boy - cheese rolls, icecream (now), toast, and spuds with some meat - but we would be keen for him to expand his food horizons.
We're about to adopt the Nigel Latta approach of not forcing them to eat and letting them go hungry, with the plan that eventually starvation will lead them to the food you're providing. But we will give the "smother with white sauce" option a go first. Confuse and bamboozle will be our tactic.
He is a creature of habit though. Every morning I make porridge and we sit at the breakfast bar and wolf it down. It has to be in the same bowl, with the same Wiggles spoon and fork (that's curious I hear you say, a fork for porridge - creature of habit), on his pirate placemat with his bib tucked underneath to prevent any spills (heaven forbid there are any spills).
Lunch is usually a jam sandwich with a yoghurt, biscuit and a banana. Creature of habit you see . . . and if only we could get the same routine for dinner time.
His sister, of course, little angel that she is, tends to be at the other end of the spectrum, scoffing down everything put in front of her. Which is just milk. Now if only she didn't want a big feed every time we sat down for dinner. And if only Zach did want a big feed every time we sat down for dinner. What a blissful dinner time that would be.
» Mark Hotton is a journalist and a lover of food who would prefer to peacefully enjoy his vittles.
- The Southland Times