Here He Grows Again by Margaret Hart
It’s that time of year again. The time when the perennial flowers start to peak through the ground in New England. When the birds start to chirp loudly outside my bedroom window at dawn. And when my son goes through his annual growth spurt. But this time, the spurt is more like a season of change.
For years I’ve been complaining that my son doesn’t eat enough. He eats two peas and he’s full. I can hear my mother saying, “Well, just wait until he becomes a teenager and eats you out of house and home.” First of all, that’s redundant. Second, since when has anyone literally eaten everything there is to eat in their house? I get it. Everyone says teenage boys eat like mad. I’m half Italian. I love food. Bring me your appetite.
Over the years, I’ve been told by friends that I should be grateful my son is not a big eater. I am happy that I haven’t had to deal with an overweight child, and my heart goes out to parents who have children who are struggling with their weight. It hasn’t been easy, however, to raise a child who is a picky eater, and to worry that he’s not getting enough nutrition. I remember my pediatrician advising not too long ago, after an annual wellness exam, to add a little extra butter and cheese to my son’s food on occasion, and supplement his meals with Pediasure. She wasn’t concerned, but said it couldn’t hurt to sneak in a few extra calories. My son has always been consistent with his weight and height since birth. And my pediatrician also told me that she felt he was healthy, and was going to be tall and slender. And there’s nothing wrong with that!
Somewhere along the way, he learned about healthy eating and good food choices. I like to think he got some of that knowledge from me. I also think the schools have done a really good job. Beginning with preschool. My son has never been one to eat a lot of salty snacks or sweets, and he didn’t have his first ice cream cone until he was about 3 years old—he just wasn’t interested. He eats a very small portion at every meal, and is full. He rarely finishes everything on his plate. This used to frustrate me until I figured out the secret: give him a small portion, he will usually eat it all, and it will make mom feel good seeing that he ate everything on his plate! And if he asks for more, mom will be even happier! And supplement his diet with vitamins and a daily “special milkshake”(aka Pediasure). This has gone on for the last five years.
The last few months, however, have been different. Even before he turned seven this past December, and more so since then, his appetite had increased dramatically. I began to notice that he was hungry more often, wanted to eat larger portions, asked for second helpings, and was “asking” for food—something he rarely did in the past. Now, half a sandwich for lunch is often not enough. He needs a whole sandwich! And despite the fact he gets less than 20 minutes for lunch, he manages to eat most everything in his lunchbox, which usually consists of a sandwich, a yogurt, a milk or juice, and a fruit (and sometimes a cookie). In the past, he’d typically come home with uneaten fruit and the cookie, but these days, the lunchbox is empty. And by the time he gets off the bus, he’s asking for a snack.
Along with the increase in his appetite, there’s been a noticeable growth in his height and shoe size—nearly two sizes in less than a year! The jeans I bought him in September are now good only for wading in ponds. And the expensive sneakers he “needed,” are now too tight, and only slightly worn. Fortunately, there’s a good consignment shop nearby where I hope to recoup a few dollars for the sneakers.
So now I wonder. Is it beginning? The “eating me out of house and home” thing? Maybe this is the first step in that direction. Tonight, the boy was really hungry. He ate an entire cheeseburger. For a child who eats two peas, and is full, this is big. It has only happened once or twice before. This is news I had to report to my husband right away. News flash: the boy ate an entire cheeseburger. Including the bun. Seriously. Can you believe it?
If my mom is right, and she usually is, forget the burger, next he’ll be asking me for a side of beef!