In this episode, Lisa talks about the power of the kitchen or dining room table as a place to really connect and interact with your family; to share conversations and experiences as you share food.
Blog posts mentioned in this episode:
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Prefer to read? Here’s the transcript:
Hey guys. Welcome to another episode of the podcast. Today I am going to be talking to you about something that I’ve actually written about twice before. It’s an issue that’s very close to my heart, and you’ll soon understand why. When I first moved into the house that we’re currently living in, it had a big, huge, island bench, and I was in heaven. Two of my kids could sit there, eating their breakfast. One was still in a high chair, and I could be pottering about in the kitchen. I was, like, ‘This has changed my life,’ because, you know how long it takes kids, toddlers, to eat. I don’t think I’m alone there. Well, if your kids just sit down and eat everything that’s put in front of them straight away, and gobble it up, I want your children. We can swap for a week, that would be awesome. And I thought it was really, really great. I was using it for breakfast, and then lunch, and then dinner. I was just, kind of, doing the dishes. Standing up, eating my own dinner, watching them sitting down, eating theirs. What? Like, everything that I’ve learnt about mindful eating, and being in a restful state, appreciating the food. All that thing, it was all gone out the window, as I was just, like, partying at my island bench. So much easier to clean up one spot.
Anyway, I then realised, hmm, this isn’t the way I want to do things around here. So, I shifted it up, and I moved us back to the kitchen table. And it was amazing, and has been an amazing thing. The reason why I first wrote about how awesome the island bench is, is because it was convenient, and great, for me as a mum. The reason I wrote about the kitchen table, and why that was so amazing, was because of connection. And that’s what I wanted to talk about today, was the things that I am discovering about parenting and food, and how they can come together to create a really meaningful experience. So, I’m just going to start with afternoon tea, which, possibly the most important meal of the day, in my family, right now. Because kids come home, from Kindy, from school, from care, whatever it is. I mean, I have a six-year-old boy coming home, every day, from school, hungry. And if I’m not ready for that meal, well, good luck Lisa!
So, I try to have a few things on standby, and that’s probably another podcast episode. But what I’ve found is, usually I’d just give them something, I’d hang out washing, or, you know, they, sort of, eat on the fly when they’re on their bikes. And I’ve started this new little routine, and it’s made such a difference to the way our afternoons feel. And that is, we come home, I open up the doors to our balcony. It’s still very hot here in Brisbane, and we all sit out there and eat together. They kind of lounge about, someone’s swinging on the hammock, someone else is sitting next to me on the couch, someone else is just being random, as kids are. But we’re eating, we’re sharing a drink, and they just start talking. I don’t have to say anything, I’m just there, and then they start talking about their day. And it’s become this thing, that if I think, ‘Oh, I might just give Mum a call,’ or, ‘I might just do something while they’re having afternoon tea.’ ‘Mum, are you coming to sit with us?’ I’ll be like, ‘Yes. I can totally take fifteen minutes to sit with you guys right now.’
Everyone gets their cup filled, everyone gets heard. If there’s stuff that’s got to come out about their day, whatever. We also can create a bit of a structure for the rest of the afternoon. You know, at this stage it’s only three o’clock, 3:30pm. So, a few hours until dinnertime, and I might let them know my expectations for that time. Then they decide what they’re going to do. And it gives everyone this little framework to operate under, after a period of connection. It’s so simple! You might do this already, but it’s totally revolutionised our afternoons. And I know so many people have to get to practices, here and there. We’ve got things on Tuesday and Wednesdays, but they’re only 5:00pm, 5:30pm, which is, you know, an issue itself. I just wanted to share how amazing that’s been, and I’d started doing that based on what happened when I moved everyone away from the island bench, back to the kitchen table.
Now, we were still having great conversations at the island bench, and I still use that place sometimes, for sure. But it’s become much more of a routine for us to go through the process of setting a table, and then sitting down at the table together, and eating, and talking. It’s really hard for them to stay still. I feel like I sound like my mother all the time, like, ‘Sit up straight, don’t talk with your mouth full.’ But, isn’t that, kind of, like, a rite of passage? I actually do want my kids to have good table manners, and this is just what we go through, as parents, if that’s something that’s important to us. But the thing that I do, when we sit down at the table, is we share, and talk about, the food. So, I’ll put a few bowls of things on the kitchen table. You know, a bowl of potato and sweet potato, a bowl of other veggies, a plate of sausages, or chicken strips, or something. And everyone chooses their bits, which I find leads to much better intake of food all round. Then we just talk, and I always ask them what was the best part of their day, and so does Nick. What was the best part of their day, and then, what was the worst part of their day?
It’s really interesting that the ‘worst part’ stuff is sometimes where I learn most about my children. Especially my son, who’s, you know, dealing with big stuff in the school playground. That’s not easy, that stuff, is it, to parent? My daughters too, I might not know, they might need to get something off their chest, but there’s no opportunity for them to do it. Apart from, perhaps, behaviour that isn’t great. I just want to give them the opportunity, the good and the bad, and the ‘what we learnt today’. Sometimes, they’ve got nothing bad to say. Sometimes, they can’t even remember what happened that day, which is crazy. You know, they really struggle with that sometimes. And I just love it. It gives us a whole different moment of connection as a family, and that’s what my second blog post was about. The different types of ways we connect, these days.
We can just passively connect, by watching something on TV, or watching a Facebook Live. Then you can, kind of, engage a little bit. You can write back, you can engage slightly, actively connect. Or, you can really pick up the phone and call someone, or you can sit down and have a conversation. You can meet up, it can be in real life. And that is the stuff that is missing in our modern life, don’t you agree? We think that these other forms of communication are keeping us connected, but are they? I just wonder. And there are amazing communities online, and I would say the Small Steps Living membership is one of those amazing communities. The women in there are a total testament to that, coming together, common likes, and goals, and backgrounds. You know, but total acceptance, and cheerleading in a way that I don’t really see in many other places online. In fact, a few of them have said that the only reason that they got back onto Facebook was to join that group, and that’s the only thing that they check, because it’s so positive. But even that, it’s amazing, but how are we connecting in real life, to the people around us, and the people that really matter to us?
I definitely feel like that type of connection-, even with Nick. I mean, we’re living side-by-side here, in this house. We’re parenting side-by-side, working side-by-side, all those things, but are we connecting outside of just that superficial stuff? And are we doing that with our friends, with our parents, with our siblings? You know, if you like them! It really matters. It especially matters with our kids, and I fall so easily into the trap of thinking that just being around them is connecting, and it’s not, because I’ve seen the difference. I can be home, when they’re home from school. I can be here, physically, but are we really connecting? And my little challenge, my little small step, to you, today, would be to try to find more of those moments of real life connection. Because I’ve seen the way that it’s transformed my family, it really has. And I’m not saying dinner time is easy. Dinner time is not a super huge fun time in our house. People don’t eat, I might put too much on their plate, Nick hates waste. You know, it can go on and on. I’ve tried something new, they’ve rejected it.
Look, all of that, that’s just going to happen. That is part and parcel. We will not get it right all the time, we should not take that to be the biggest catastrophe ever. What’s more important is the conversation that happens around that table, and how my kids feel about sitting down to eat with their families. And that they have an opportunity to be heard, and that people care. You know, it’s simple stuff, and I’m most probably preaching to the converted here, and this is something that you guys practice all the time. But I know that the convenience of an island bench was so cool, and it still is. But going that extra little mile, setting a table, sitting down. And, you know, this is something that I want to be doing at breakfast time, too. Not there yet, but I want to be. I also want to be an example to them, of someone who sits down and eats properly. You know, so they see the types of foods that I’m eating, and then that will encourage them to try them.
So, that’s my little story for today. Connection around the kitchen table, connection around food. How it is such an important ingredient in this life that we’re living. And so many of us can get so focused on the food, and quite uptight about the food, or the type of food. But really, what they’ll remember is not the day they started eating broccoli. They’ll just remember how they felt around that table. So, a small steps reminder to connect where we can, with the people that matter. See you guys.