Seventeen years ago I gave birth to a tiny baby that eventually grew into a picky toddler that ate virtually nothing in order to survive. “Is it possible to stay alive for longer than twelve hours after eating just one grape and two animal crackers for dinner?” I whispered to my husband as we nervously watched our toddler eat one evening. He shrugged. As I attempted to bribe, blackmail, and threatened our son into eating even just a few more morsels of food, neither of us could have possibly known what would happen fifteen years later.
As the sun rises on a recent morning, my son enters the kitchen for the first of what will be multiple times that day and sits at the counter with a large box of cereal, a gallon of milk, the sugar bowl, and a spoon the size of Lake Superior. For several minutes, I hear nothing but crunching, slurping, and more cereal being poured into the bowl. I am too frightened to turn away from my newspaper to look at the scene being played out behind me. But then I do. I shouldn’t be shocked, but I am. The cereal box is empty, the milk carton is drained, and he looks … well … still hungry.
“Don’t we have anything to eat around here?” he says and he walks over to the refrigerator, opens the door, and hangs on it like a wet towel.
I have learned not to respond to this question. I quietly flip the newspaper page and continue reading. After a few seconds and thirteen long sighs later, he finally saunters out of the kitchen, only to return ten minutes later. He opens the pantry door, stands there, and sighs. “I am starving,” he announces dramatically as he opens a bag of chips and begins chomping away.
My stomach growls loudly and for one very short moment, it drowns out the sound of his incessant crunching. “Mom!” he exclaims, “If you’re hungry, why don’t you eat?” If only it were that easy. At my age, ingesting just one potato chip makes my stomach look like I attached a bicycle pump to my belly button and pumped my abdomen full of air. But as the salty scent of the chips slowly wafts into my nose, I can’t help myself. I stick my hand in the bag of chips.
“I’ll just have one,” I say to him as I “accidentally” pull out 35 chips. Just as I’m stuffing several of the chips in the pockets of my robe for later, my husband walks in the kitchen. He looks at me and shakes his head.
“I’m just going to have a banana,” he says as he eyeballs the bag of chips when he thinks I’m not looking. As I walk to the coffee pot to fill up my cup, I hear the chip bag rattling. I already know he has helped himself.
Back when our son was a toddler, we both weighed 10 pounds less, spent four thousand less a month on groceries, and succumbed to temptation only when the Girl Scouts delivered cookies once a year. But now, thanks to our teenager’s need to continually eat, we have officially turned into a bunch of rhinoceroses that graze nine hours a day and crankily charge anyone who gets in our way.
Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, my son stuffs the now half-empty bag of chips back into the cupboard, rubs his stomach, and announces, “I think that’ll do it for now.” My husband and I both follow him out of the kitchen, glad to be finally free from calorie-laden enticements.
Fifteen minutes later, I hear the freezer door open. My husband’s ears perk up like a dog that has just seen a rabbit in the backyard. “I hope he’s having ice cream,” he whispers.
“I hope it’s the frozen waffles,” I mutter as we lurk outside the door and sniff the air. I think I hear the toaster turn on. But it could just be wishful thinking.
My son sighs and says, “Mom and Dad, I can see your shadows on the wall.”
“I just want one bite of whatever you’re having,” my husband states as we casually saunter into the kitchen.
“Can I get you the syrup?” I ask.
Three minutes later, I rub my stomach, pleasantly sated. “I’m full,” I say.
“Me too,” my husband replies.
“I’m not,” my son adds.
This could go on for years.
“Never eat more than you can lift.”
By Vicky DeCoster (All Rights Reserved)