How I Used A Broken Microwave To Teach My Kids Patience, Science, And Ingenuity
The following was syndicated from Medium for The Fatherly Forum, a community of parents and influencers with insights about work, family, and life. If you’d like to join the Forum, drop us a line at TheForum@Fatherly.com.
Our microwave stopped working 6 months ago. I tried to nuke some Annie’s Burritos and nothing. That round plate inside refused to rotate. Those deadly waves of light refused to ignite.
Thank god the clock was still operational since we only had 4 other ways to check the time while in the kitchen.
Panic then set in.
A. How would we eat again? More specifically, how would I be able to eat lunch solo? All lunch had to be nuked right? Are there other food warming alternatives that I’m not aware of?
B. How would I replace this behemoth? It is installed under a kitchen cabinet and above the stove. I wouldn’t know where to begin in terms of removing it and ultimately installing a new one. And I refuse to call in reinforcements for what should be a simple task.
My next move was predictable … no move.
I tossed the burritos and made a PB&J.
I’m a survivor.
Life throws me a curve ball and I adjust with the best of them.
And by adjust I mean do nothing and figure out a way to live with the “new normal”.
The door bell breaks: let people know they are now required to knock.
A hook falls off in the bathroom: just hang the wet towel over the shower curtain rod.
The nut on top of the floor lamp with the cream colored shade in the family room next to the couch and in front of the window doesn’t secure tightly, therefore, the shade shakes when you as so much breathe near it: yell at the kids if they as so much get within feet of the lamp.
Microwave breaks: figure out how to make do without it.
And survive we have.
While I do not deserve accolades for my inaction with the microwave and probably deserve a firm kick in the posterior, a funny thing has happened along the way. While making do without a super convenient way to warm food, we have exposed the children to some important life lessons:
While the microwave may not be operational, it still has a door and there is a tight seal around said door when it closed. And since we no longer generate any warmth inside the microwave, it is consistently at room temperature inside those 4 walls.
You say broken appliance, we say convenient bread box.
Patience Pays Off
Two burritos took 4 minutes in the microwave.
Two burritos now take 20 minutes in the oven and that doesn’t account for the required preheating time.
A microwaved burrito is scoffed down quickly and without appreciation of nuanced flavor.
An oven baked burrito forces us to slow down and appreciate lunch more.
A microwaved burrito does not look appetizing.
A microwaved burrito burns the roof of the mouth with regularity.
A non-microwaved burrito brings out more flavor.
Is that cilantro in there?
A week ago, my daughter asked if I ever planned on replacing the microwave. I don’t think it was judgmental because she followed that up with “Maybe we don’t need a stove either.”
Who am I kidding, she’s my daughter, of course, she was being sarcastic.
But I think she has been grasping the concept of how easily we have survived without a functioning microwave. Her life has been no different without it and I know she realizes this.
Maybe, just maybe, that will impart the concept of minimalism into the recesses of her brain or at least it will make her aware that we don’t always need “stuff” for the sake of having “stuff”.
Eating Healthier And Safer
“Dad, can we get Hot Pockets from Shop Rite?”
“The microwave is broken my dear son, remember? It would take like an hour and a half to heat those up in the oven.”
“What if we get gluten free tortillas and cook them stove-top and fill them with grilled chicken? It’s like totally the same thing.”
“Except it isn’t Dad, but fine.”
“And don’t forget, I care about your welfare and eating Hot Pockets can be very dangerous.”
Using alternative means is often better
Since we could no longer heat water in the microwave for tea, the tea kettle was pulled from storage and no longer rots in solitary. And by the way, water heats up much faster and more evenly using the tea kettle. Plus it has that awesome whistle.
My wife and daughter bake a lot. This requires a lot of butter melting. The first option that comes to mind is to melt the butter in the microwave. But when they were forced to find an alternative sans microwave — melting it on the stove top — they discovered that the butter melted more evenly in this manner.
And we all know that precision is the key with baking.
This one is odd but true.
When we moved into our home in 2004, the microwave in question was already installed. Upon entering the house for the first time post-closing, we immediately noticed that below the clock display on the microwave, there was a dead fly lodged against the glass from the inside. We couldn’t find a means to remove it so we left it. It seemed harmless enough and would always be a funny tale of the early years in our new home.
Eleven years later, the fly was still there. It must have been preserved in some way which we always found fascinating.
But early in 2016, we noticed that it was gone.
What conditions existed within this small space that allowed it to exist in perfect condition, albeit dead, for 11 years but then caused it to disappear in year 12?
Science needs this answer. It could be a breakthrough.
That is why ultimately, I cannot remove it.
John Markowski writes about fatherhood, sports, and the mundane. Lover of super specific details. Check out his publication, Mundane Alley.