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Washington Voices

Worries tend to get mom into the soup

Thu., Feb. 18, 2010

January was National Soup Month, but it’s not too late to celebrate with a steaming bowl of chicken noodle or a hearty serving of black bean. Researchers say that soup can help you lose weight and boost your immunity. Perhaps that’s why Americans consume more than 10 billion bowls of it each year.

But I’ve discovered an additional benefit – making homemade soup is great therapy. In fact, it’s become my surefire stress reliever.

Nobody does worry like a mom, and mothers of teenagers are in a league of their own. If worry were an Olympic sport, moms would own the medals stand. However, after our fourth son was born I realized that I’d better pace myself. The rigors of rearing boys aren’t for the faint of heart or for the overly anxious. So, I vowed never to stress out over the small stuff.

For example, when one of my children insisted on wearing his Buzz Lightyear snow boots throughout July and August, I didn’t fuss. Not even when he wore them with his bathing suit to the neighborhood pool. After all, he took them off when he swam and when he slept.

I didn’t bat an eye when my oldest son informed me that his name was “Bob,” and that he would no longer answer to Ethan. I obligingly addressed him as Bob for several months, until he told me that that his new name was Lucy.

And when another son told lengthy stories at preschool about his “other dad” named Steve who only spoke Spanish, I smiled bravely and mumbled something about how storytelling was a genetic trait. His father, Derek, doesn’t speak Spanish and didn’t find the glowing tales about Alex’s “other dad” amusing. When Alex wanted a new toy, Derek told him to ask his other dad. That was the last we heard of Steve.

Yet something happened to my sangfroid as the boys entered their teen years. Suddenly, there was less small stuff to shrug off and more big stuff to cause concern. I couldn’t smile at antics that caused grades to drop, nor could I dismiss some of the angst and attitudes that began to seep into our home.

The stakes get higher as our children grow. Everything from friendships to grade-point averages can have profound significance. And just when the decisions a child makes become increasingly important, a parent’s power and influence begins to wane.

I find solace in making soup.

While chunks of steak simmer in a pot, I chop carrots and broccoli. I channel my concern into the soothing rhythm of peeling potatoes. And if I shed a tear or two while dicing onions, well, that’s only to be expected. By the time I ladle the vegetable beef into bowls, the knot in my stomach has eased.

My soup repertoire is well known among family members. On any given week, potato, lentil, chicken and rice, split pea or Texas bean will simmer on the stove, each with its signature aroma and magical ability to satiate the formidable hunger of growing boys.

For me, the therapeutic benefit of making soup is simple. I can’t walk the high school hallways with my teenagers to ensure they’re making wise choices in friendships or schoolwork. And I can’t shield my 10-year-old from the scorn of a friend who mocks his basketball skills every recess.

But I can make soup.

I can satisfy their hunger with its comforting warmth. They don’t need to know how I worried over them while I sliced the celery. How with each dash of thyme and each pinch of pepper, I’ve added my prayers to the pot.

And when they ask what makes my soup taste so good, I tell them the truth. I’ve seasoned it with love.

Contact Cindy Hval at Her previous columns are available online at


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