I came between Mathew and Peter in the one and a half dozen kids my mom claimed. My dad called me Princess since I was the only girl, which led my brothers to believe they should serve me and bow to my every whim. Not really, but I might not have had to beat them up so many times if they had.
Life Lessons from Ice Cream
My mom has talked many times about the first time she had ice cream with my dad. She was completely shocked at the huge amount of ice cream in her bowl. My dad loads the ice cream on. His idea of a serving of ice cream is not even close to the serving suggestion on the side of the container. Although she never said so much, I bet it was one of the reasons she married him. After all, it showed how much he really loved her to share his ice cream so willingly with her.
There were very few times growing up that I can remember looking in the freezer and not finding ice cream. Ice cream equaled success and happiness. If we were eating ice cream, things were good. After we finished a big chore, we had ice cream. Extra grocery money meant we bought ice cream. When everyone was getting along, dad got out ice cream.
My dad taught us to highly value our ice cream. Occasionally, we would trade a chore for a dessert. You do my chore, and I’ll let you have my dessert. That almost never happened with ice cream. It was a rare chore that was worth a whole bowl of ice cream, especially a bowl of ice cream my dad served up.
Eating ice cream in a house full of kids teaches many lessons in individuality and tolerance because you have to endure all the different ice cream eating styles. Some gobble down their ice cream and then watch everyone else with hungry eyes. Others take their time and savor every bite. There’s the stir your ice cream into mush style and the lick your bowl clean style. There’s also the help-a-younger-sibling style which included sneaking as many bites of their ice cream as possible without them getting upset; I was really good at that style.
Ice cream didn’t last long in our house since there were so many to share it with. A regular container of ice cream is barely a serving for seven or eight kids and two adults. I remember my dad taking a large knife and cutting a container of ice cream into ten equal parts. He sliced it up, container and all, and then slapped a slab of ice cream on a plate for each of us. They weren’t very big portions, but we were told there were kids in Africa that never had ice cream so we were thankful.
When I was about twelve, I went to a friend’s birthday party and we got to serve our own ice cream. Wow! Serving your own ice cream is a big step, but I had watched my dad for years and was prepared. I quickly did the mental calculation of how many girls were there plus the mom, 6 total. The dad had taken the younger kids and left, so my experience said I didn’t have to include them in my calculations. I then mentally divided the container of ice cream by my total. It was a pretty good size portion of ice cream. I watched the first girl take a single small dip and then pass the scoop on.
“Is that all you want?” I asked in complete shock.
She looked at her ice cream and shrugged. “I only want a little.”
I recalculated what my new serving size would be since she hadn’t taken her full share. Then the second girl took two small scoops of ice cream and went to get cake. I couldn’t believe my luck. I went to work again recalculating my larger share. The third girl also took a small serving and handed me the scoop. What a stroke of good luck that the girls in front of me obviously had upset stomachs.
I made it about six large scoops into my carefully calculated fair share of eight or nine scoops before one of the girls exclaimed loudly, “Look at all the ice cream on Amy’s plate!”
I was about to explain that I wasn’t taking more than my fair share and she would get hers in a minute when I noticed the mom’s eyes bug.
The mom choked out something terribly polite, “She must really be in the mood for ice cream today.”
That was the moment it dawned on me that if it seems too good to be true, it is. I should have taken a hint from the girls in front of me. It wasn’t a stroke of good luck that they had only taken tiny polite scoops of ice cream. Really there’s a secret rule about how much ice cream is polite to take and I hadn’t caught on quick enough.
Now, when I’m out, I take tiny polite scoops of ice cream. When I’m at home and I serve myself a much-too-large-to-be-polite portion of ice cream, I justify it with the thought that I’m reaffirming a valuable life lesson; if it seems too good to be true, it is. So eat dessert at home.