Lighter chicken parmesan pasta bake

My parents always seemed to have it together when I was a kid; they knew how to respond to any situation and fix every problem. But in hindsight, I realize they were probably just winging it like everyone else.

I take the spaghetti approach to parenting, as in “throw spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks.” Every day brings new issues – especially as my kiddo nears his teenage years – and I try a little bit of everything to see what works best.

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We seem to be doing OK. “Who’s the best mom in the whole world?” I recently asked my 11-year-old while forcing him to give me hugs.

“Darcy Mau,” he replied, naming the mom of one of his closest friends. “But you’re, like, definitely top six.” I’ll take it.

Darcy and I were chatting last week, comparing notes on our respective kids. I find this comforting because it reinforces that someone else is going through a similar parenting expedition as I am – and at the same time. It’s nice to have a friend along for the crazy journey.

“My kid won’t eat foods all kids like,” I complained. “Like hot dogs. And spaghetti.”

“My kid loves spaghetti, but only if it’s spaghetti noodles,” Darcy countered. “If the pasta is a different shape, he pushes away his plate.”

These seem like minor commonalities, but they’re reassuring nonetheless.

When I was a kid and I rebelled against the proffered food options – usually Tuna Noodle Helper – my  parents made me sit at the table until I ate enough food to satisfy them, however long that might take. It was an effective strategy on me.

This does not work with my son. He’s more stubborn than I am and the hungrier we get the more the situation escalates. Our current deal is that if I make something normal and yummy that anyone in their right mind should like – like this baked pasta with chicken cooked in marinara sauce – and he won’t eat it, he has to make his own meal.

“I don’t want any because the noodles look weird,” the kiddo said when I made this dish using penne because that’s what was in the cupboard. “I’ll make myself some ramen.”

And I’ll just be over here, throwing spaghetti – or whatever pasta I have on hand – against the wall. I’m sure Darcy can empathize.

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