Ladling out a bowl of stew provides food for thought

I think one of the things that fascinates me most about being a parent is the way lessons come from the simplest occurrences in family life.

Take our "family stew rule," for example. One of our favorite meals is beef stew. I'm not sure if it's our cold – and seemingly everlasting – New England winters that prompt the popularity, or the fact that I'm a cook who makes a mean stew.

Regardless, we love this particular dinner, and smiles are evident all around when the "What's for dinner?" question is answered with "Beef stew."

As the bowl of stew is placed on the table and the first hand reaches for the ladle, I once again remind everyone of the family stew rule: "Remember, you take whatever ends up in the ladle. No fishing around for meat to fill the ladle."

The "rule" began back when our kids were younger and not all that crazy about vegetables. In those days, the ladle would be maneuvered so that lots of meat, some potatoes, and no other vegetables would end up in it, to the delight of whichever child was doing the maneuvering.

While one child was delighted, the other would start screaming, "He [or she] is taking all the meat."

Thus, the rule.

As I was peeling potatoes for the stew pot recently, I found myself thinking about the stew rule and how much more universal a concept it really is than it appears to be on the surface.

In fact, I thought, it simply comes down to "doing unto others as you would have them do unto you."

And then I began to think of the many times and ways our kids have put into practice the meaning behind the family stew rule.

I remembered the time our college-age daughter – despite the fact that she had been offered an attractive living arrangement – stuck with a roommate who had no one to live with the next year.

I also recalled the times I've seen our son console a fellow goalie after a particularly hard loss in a hockey game. And I've watched our daughter settle for an evening of video watching at home because that was her date's preference.

When our son was in elementary school, the desire to do something special for his sister gave him the courage to swallow his fears and approach an "unapproachable" girl in his class to ask for her dad's help in securing a present for his sister.

The list really is endless, I thought, and as I put the stew bowl on the table tonight and remind them once again of "the rule," I'll also share with them some "food for thought" – my afternoon musings – and commend them for the many times and many ways they've practiced the rule, even if they didn't recognize it as such.

A great subject for the family dinner table, stew on the menu or not!

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