There’s one question that haunts me. I can’t shake it. No matter how many times I answer, it comes back for more, more, more: “What’s for dinner?”
Honestly? I have no idea. But that doesn’t keep everyone from asking. These kids and their growing appetites have made answering this question more pressing than ever.
When the kids were between the ages of 3 and 7, we lived in the stage of questions. “Why are cars able to go so fast, Mom?” “Why do people call them cars? How did they get that name?” “Who gets to name things?” Tom and I felt like all we ever did was answer questions and then answer the questions triggered by the answers.
But now that the kids are between the ages of 14 and 9, we’ve left the constant questioning behind and have entered the age of constant hunger. The only times the kids aren’t hungry are the times when they’re unconscious. If their eyes are open, they’re hungry or they’re thinking about the next time they might get hungry and planning accordingly.
They’re hungry in the morning, at lunch, after school, right before dinner, at dinner, an hour after dinner and right before bed. The after-school hunger seems to be the most intense. Judging by how famished they are at 3 p.m., I’d guess that their teachers are having them dig educational trenches all day.
Today I picked up our 14-year-old son from school, and he hadn’t even shut the car door yet when he started reporting on his extreme hunger: “Mom, I’m so hungry. I really need some food right now. My stomach is so empty. I could eat a cow. No, I could eat two cows, stacked on top of each other – with mustard.”
(I’m still trying to erase the visual image of stacked cows slathered in mustard.)
The good news is that this near-constant state of hunger has helped the kids develop some cooking skills. The teenager has learned to make his own burgers and practices almost daily. Over the summer alone, his burger consumption probably wiped out an entire herd of cattle and doubled profits for the French’s mustard company.
When they were little, there were days when I had to practically beg the kids to eat. I’d do almost anything to get them to consume a chicken nugget or a bite of green beans before they ran off to their next adventure. But now, food is the adventure they’re interested in. “What’s for dinner, Mom?” “Are we going somewhere for dinner?” “Can we go right now?” “Are you going to eat that dinner roll, or can I have it?”
As you might imagine, all the eating has fueled some serious growth spurts. When I bump into friends who ask what I’ve been up to lately, I say two things: “I am the maker of food and the buyer of pants.” When I’m not at the grocery store, I’m at the mall buying longer jeans because their current pants are now an inch above the ankle.
I’ve never been a fan of those all-you-can-eat buffets, but I’m beginning to understand the logic behind it. When kids are in a growth spurt, they are much like a swarm of locusts, capable of wiping out an entire pantry before you can say burrito.
The next time they ask me what’s for dinner, maybe I’ll just hand them my checkbook and tell them to gnaw on that while I go out and wrangle a couple of stacked cows – with mustard on top.
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.