After we learned a baby was on the way, I began to worry that the older kids might get “lost in the shuffle”. While everyone was goo-ing and gaa-ing over the cute baby, I worried that they would become (or start believing they’d become) an afterthought.
I had an idea that I could make breakfast every school morning and then drive them to school. I figured that by the time the baby arrived, “breakfast with Dad” would be a guaranteed time that the older kids would have my attention.
I pitched it to Momma Bird who was enthusiastic about the opportunity to sleep in on school mornings. (At least until Little Bird bollixed up her whole morning schedule).
Now, I didn’t make every single breakfast: I’m a firm believer that, except for surgeons and airplane pilots, “Close enough is good enough”. But I got darn near all of them.
Yesterday was the last breakfast of the school year for me. As I cooked, I thought back on what making breakfast for a year taught me about myself, my family, and our food.
1. Consistency and Stability are more important than I thought.
When I’d travel for work, or miss breakfast for an early appointment or court, Momma Bird always told me that the kids were disappointed. If someone (or everyone) overslept and we had to have a “rush breakfast” in the car – it seemed to throw everybody’s day off kilter a little bit.
When the day’s schedule required us to go in 4 separate directions – meaning we wouldn’t see or talk to each other very much – it was always nice to have a few minutes a day, at breakfast, where we could all hang out together around a table.
2. Momma Bird was right about Carbs at breakfast.
For years, Momma Bird has been saying that we eat too many carbs at breakfast. Whether it was pancakes, waffles or something else, she argued that the carbs slowed us down and made us hungrier, earlier.
Usually, I just chalked it up to another of Momma Bird’s “wacky health conspiracy theories” (love ya’ baby).
But, I am here to confess – she was right. On the days that we ate a carb based breakfast, I would be hungry before we got the kids to school. On the days we had something more protein-centered, I could make it to lunch before the stomach grumbles registered on the Richter Scale.
I’d notice differences in the kids energy levels later in the day, too – on carb-heavy mornings, they would be bouncing off the walls after school. Protein-heavy days, they seemed a little calmer.
3. The Meal Drives the Mood.
Here’s a theory I’m going to test out even more through the summer: The more utensils there are on the table, the less people talk.
I noticed this one morning when we had a “Turkish Breakfast” – so called because its what we had for breakfast when I spent a summer in Turkey. I served sliced cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, cubes of 2 different cheeses, a couple hard-boiled eggs…all finger food…on a large plate in the middle of the table.
We all sat around that morning picking what we wanted off the plate, and had some great breakfast conversations. I’ve observed this phenomena at dinner from time to time, so I’m going to have to apply the Scientific Method to explore it further – maybe one of y’all could “peer review” my theory.
4. Work Creep is a dangerous thing.
When I started out making breakfast last August, I’d start at 6:30 a.m., so we could eat by 7 a.m. and be out the door to school at 7:30 am. As the year progressed I got better at making breakfast in about 15 – 20 minutes; I started using the extra time to catch up on emails, work-blogging, book-keeping, etc.
Once I allowed work to creep into the early morning, it started creeping into breakfast. Somedays, I’d be late getting started on the meal. Other days, I’d bring the iPad to breakfast to “work while I ate”. My mind would be on work and not the family meal.
Work is important, but it is a lot like Pandora’s Box: once you let it out of its little box, it tends to take over everything. This is particularly true for work-at-home Dads.
5. Orange Juice isn’t Orange Juice.
I love a glass of Orange Juice for breakfast. Love it. Gulping down a glass of OJ used to be as comforting as feeling the warmth of a sunbeam on your face in the middle of a cold winter.
Until the morning that Sister Bird said, “You know that’s not really Orange Juice, right?”. I hate uber-educated teenagers.
Turns out she was right. Orange Juice is a couple drops of juice from an orange that has been stripped of all if its nutrients so it can be preserved. Scientists add acid preservatives, mix in tons of sugar and water, and add artificial colorings and flavorings so the concoction looks and taste like orange juice.
So I’m done with Orange Juice – at least the kind in the grocery store. Now, for breakfast, we each have a glass of water. Boring? Maybe, but turns out a glass of water stimulates your stomach and prepares it to start digest.
Without “Orange Juice” our stomachs aren’t loaded up with sugars, acid-based preservatives, yellow dye no. 3 and whatever other carcinogens and toxins the Orange Industry believes tastes better than an actual orange.
6. Traditions are important.
No matter how hard I try, I cannot make pancakes. Momma Bird has watched me make them, and they still don’t turn out right. They are either Pan-bricks or Pan-crepes…and it’s anyone’s guess which one it will be on any given morning.
Momma Bird’s pancakes, on the other hand, are a family tradition going all the way back to when the kids were toddlers: she’d make them in whatever shapes the kids wanted … dinosaurs, clowns, baseballs, snowmen, butts, you name it. This lasted, I think, until Yankee Bird asked for a pancake shaped like Derek Jeter diving for a baseball. (To her credit, Momma Bird did pretty damn good on that one, but I think it broke her).
We all love Momma Bird’s pancakes – just the right amount of fluffy, the right amount of butter, and the right amount of delicious. Momma Bird’s pancakes have become a “family tradition” – something that ties things together over the years. On the mornings she’d make pancakes, everyone was excited and happy. They became a “thing” that – I hope – the kids will talk about when they are 40 years old and reminisce about their childhood.
Dads – take a crack at making breakfasts for the family for a week, or a month, or a year. I guarantee it will change how you see and think about your family, your food, and your work.by