There’s a funny scene from The Simpsons where Marge Simpson painstakingly creates a smiley face out of fruit and bacon on Homer’s pancakes, only to watch him eat everything without even looking at it.
In real life, it’s not so funny. We’re more like Homer than we care to admit. Someone spends time shopping, chopping, preparing, cooking, setting the table and serving a meal, only to have it all disappear in two minutes without anyone pausing for air— and then everyone is gone.
There has to be a better way. There is. I believe I am smarter than Homer Simpson. And you are too. It may be easier said than done considering our fast and furious lives sometimes cause us to rush through our lives – and our meals. But it’s a choice that we can do something about…starting tonight. I’ll show you how we did it.
Gather Around the Table
One of the first things we did when we moved into our house was build a big kitchen table. We didn’t have curtains or a couch, but I wanted a great table. One of the things I remember most from my childhood was sitting around the kitchen table— the stories, the jokes, the teasing, the laughing— this is where we would catch up on our lives. This is where family happens. I grew up in a big family, so it’s not to say we weren’t running around in a frenzy, but we did make time at dinner.
(see also The Family Table)
It Starts with 15 Minutes
Now that I have a family of my own with the requisite trombone lessons and basketball practice, I get that Homer sneaks in. So, we started setting the timer on the microwave for 15 minutes as we sit down for dinner. We start with a salad and a drink. We don’t serve the “main dish” until the timer goes off. It forces us to actually…get this…talk to each other. To savor instead of shovel. To lose the Homer. And it’s working.
We also started playing games to fill the time. Things like going around the table and each having to name a character from Toy Story, or a kind of cereal, or a sport without a ball. Or tonight my son said he bumped into someone – and before he could tell me who it was – I said, “Let me guess” and we all started playing 20 Questions to see who could come up with the person first. Yes it sounds goofy and unrealistic, but try it. Set the timer: 15 minutes.
(see also Finding Fun at the Family Dinner Table)
We’re laughing. We’re slowing down. We’re being a family. By the time the timer goes off and we bring out the main course, we’re feeling full from the salad and water so we’re eating less. We started making smaller portions. We started learning about each other’s days. We still have to study for science tests and practice the piano but we’re making a little dent in our lives to enjoy each other, a good meal, and a good laugh as a family.
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Check out more Together Counts’ resources on making the most of family mealtime:
Erin Moran McCormick wrote this post on behalf of the Together Counts program. Erin is the author of Year of Action: How to Stop Waiting & Start Living Your BIG, Fabulous Life, which chronicles her adventures at age 25 when she bought a one-way ticket to Paris (with no French and little money) and continues later in life at age 50 where she quit a toxic job, wrote a book, lost weight and found work that she loves – and she and her family have never been happier. Her everyday adventures (the good, the bad and the embarrassing) and simple Action Steps will inspire you to take little steps to create big changes in your life.