Tonawanda News

November 29, 2012

Sharks, little boys and other bottomless pits

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — When I tell people I have two little boys, there’s about a 50/50 chance I’ll get one of two reactions.

One: “Oh, they’re so much easier than girls! I’ll take boys any day.”

(My mom, who raised one of each, agrees with this. I’ll leave that one alone.)

Two: “Oh, your grocery bills will be going up!”

I can’t argue with that, although I can’t actually speak to the comparative eating power of little girls. The boys are 8 and 4, and the weekly grocery budget already has become a figure to watch with trepidation. In part, that’s because it’s simply getting more and more pricey to put together a meal that actually includes things from all four food groups — as I’m sure you’ve noticed — and when you add in the need for haste due to a tricky family schedule, it gets even more complicated.

And part of it’s just because they can eat. A lot. Amazing amounts, really, for two little boys who are on the low to normal side of the weight charts ... though when I see the amount of energy they can exert in bouncing around the house, it’s less surprising.

Jim, at 8, has been known to put away more food than his father. I watched in awe as he consumed three (OK, smallish) bowls of chicken with vegetables and pasta the other days. Meat, bread, dairy products, even vegetables ... he’ll plow through it all and then look around for dessert. I put Brussels sprouts in front of him a few weeks ago and he ate those. Oatmeal (sometimes two bowls) is the requested breakfast. Fish is a newfound favorite. Chicken chili is a treat. Dessert is not usually a big deal, but milkshakes are the best thing ever.

He reminds me of his uncle — my brother — who during his teenage years, could put away a frightening amount of Arby’s sandwiches in one sitting. And, like my brother at that age, Jim looks like he subsides on crackers and water. I can count ribs. It’s ridiculous. Why didn’t I get that metabolism?

I’m in awe, and I realize just how lucky I am with him, that veggies and dessert alike are scarfed down with gusto. Sam’s a little more complicated.

In a word: He’s picky.

I’m pretty sure that with him, it’s a phase. I know it, and I roll my eyes at the mournful protests at the sight of vegetables and anything, really, that isn’t macaroni and cheese. (”It’ll make me sick!” accompanied by realistic gagging noises.) He isn’t forced to eat anything, but neither do dessert or snacks appear if there’s no a real attempt to consume the nutritious portion of the meal. We have an agreement.

All the same, when the child decides to eat, he’s capable of putting away just as much as his brother. 

He started asking for lunch at 9:05 a.m. one day last week. Breakfast had been done for approximately 90 minutes. Beaning your brother with a toy lightsaber, doing laps from one end of the house to another and jumping on your bed burns a lot of energy, after all. And leave him alone with a bowl of popcorn and it will be inhaled in approximately 10 seconds. Or so it seems.

And I know it’s just going to get worse.

In nine years or so, I’ll have two teenage boys in the house, with all the gargantuan appetite that entails. Maybe my husband and I will both get extra jobs. Maybe I’ll buy stock in ramen noodles and spaghetti. 

Better yet, maybe I’ll teach them how to shop and cook, and they can feed the rest of us.

•••

All this speculation and commentary on the eating habits of growing small children leads me to what inspired this column today.

I watch my boys eat and I watch my grocery bill climb and I struggle to feed them nutritious food that will also fill them up. We’re fortunate. Even if we have to cut something else out, we can do that.

Many families can’t. Times are tough. There are too many little boys (and girls) who go to bed with growling stomachs, just because there wasn’t quite enough at the dinner table that night.

If you’re able, remember that this holiday season. 

You can find a list of food pantries, searchable by zipcode, at www.foodbankwny.org. Every little bit helps. You can also make a donation on the website.

And if you’re the one in need, you can find help there as well. Or you can call for information at 852-1305.

No child should be hungry. 

And we should all try to do something about it.

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at jill.keppeler@tonawanda-news.com.