The Monday after daylight saving, my 4-year-old son fell asleep on the couch at 4:30 PM, missing dinner, which was a family-sized frozen lasagna that was set to go off at about 5:10. (My friends call me Martha Stewart, but really, I’m no better than any other mother who wants to give her children the best.)
“Uh-oh,” my husband murmured, his hands on his hips as he studied my sleeping boy.
I agreed. We knew this could only mean trouble. After all, we’ve learned through experience not to try to wake either of our boys from a deep, much-needed sleep.
One memory in particular stands out in my mind. It was when, as a novice mother, I woke my older son (who was probably 3 at the time) from a nap because we had a midday birthday party to attend. I remember he looked at me for about 2 seconds before his face crumpled and he began sobbing uncontrollably.
“Mommy,” he said, “I don’t even know why I’m crying, but I can’t stop!”
It was pitiful, the poor guy. And my younger son kind of reacts the same way.
The problem with my younger son falling asleep on the couch the other day was a little more intricate. It had a few more layers. Because, you see, long since the days of novice motherhood, I’ve gone back to full-time work. So when one of my kids falls asleep at 4:30 PM and refuses to get back up, my husband and I know that there’s going to be trouble anywhere between, oh, 1:00 AM and 4:00 AM, which are prime sleeping hours when one gets up at 5.
My husband, still looking at my son, shook his head and sighed. “Hm. We’d better not get too comfortable tonight. Wonder when that volcano’s going to erupt.”
He was right. Because on top of the really early bedtime was the missed dinner, which is a problem because my younger son is just like his mother; he doesn’t miss a meal.
There were times in high school when I would honestly forget to eat. I was a studious kid, graduating number 8 in my class of 182—which pissed me off because I knew I could have been number one. Maybe if I had just skipped a few more meals to study.
In any case, I was often too busy studying to remember to eat, and many times I’d just grab what I called a “beef packet,” which was a Buddig brand—you guessed it—packet of beef. I’d rip that sucker open, pour some milk into a coffee cup, and eat my breakfast on the way to school after having woken up at 5:00 AM to study.
(Incidentally, the moment I graduated high school and headed off to college, I found my freedom and a new best friend who taught me that taking vodka shots before tests about which we were nervous would make the tests not only seem easier—but also much more fun. I earned my first-ever C that semester, prompting my dad to call me and say, “Shay? Are you on drugs?” to which I responded, “I’ve tried pot a few times, but I didn’t like it. I’ve just been drinking a lot, usually before Physics tests.” “And your still getting a C…in Physics?” my dad asked. “Fair enough. Keep doing what you’re doing. Sounds like you’ve got it handled.”)
For years, it baffled me that no one could understand how one gets so busy that she forgets to eat.
And then suddenly, the shift came, and I was one of those people who couldn’t understand it anymore, either.
“What do you mean, you forget to eat?” I asked, rolling my eyes at one of the mom friends I’d made just after I’d moved to a new town with my husband and new son. “I’m constantly looking forward to my next meal. In fact, usually as I’m taking bites of my lunch, I’m already dreaming about what I’m going to have for dinner.”
As soon as I said it, I gasped, causing a piece of chicken nugget to fall out of my mouth. I’d become one of those deplorable people who actually had time to eat.
And not only that, but goddammit, I looked forward to it. Still do.
I have a habit of eating a few (okay, six) pieces of chocolate before I go to bed. Once, I fell asleep on the couch before I’d had a chance to eat my nighttime chocolate.
Did I count all of those missed calories a win for my waistline?
I swear my biological chocolate clock woke me back up at 11:30 PM, and I stumbled to the kitchen, eyes half shut, and poured a glass of milk because that’s the best part of gnawing one’s way through a chocolate bar—the milk at the end. And then I proceeded to do just that: Snarf my way through half a bar of chocolate and wash it down with a cold glass of 2%.
I woke the next morning fat, happy—and a teensy bit ashamed. Ah, well.
My younger son, I’ve learned, will most likely not be a kid who forgets to eat, no matter how hard he studies. He’s skipped that part of being just like me and gone straight to taking after the me of adulthood: He loves to eat. (Fingers crossed that he skips the pot and shots part of being just like me, too.)
My husband and I had a rough start at having kids, and we take our jobs as parents very seriously. Let me preface this next segment by saying that we make sure that our kids have healthy, balanced meals. But while my older son craves fruits and vegetables and views meals as annoying but necessary interruptions to fuel his body between his intense digging and exploration time outside, my younger son is more like his mom. He has an affinity for all things noodle and carb, and he looks forward to his meal breaks, sitting down with a huge, anticipatory grin at the food laid out in front of him.
Being the writer and helicopter mom that I am, I chronicle anything cute that my kids say. Here, then, are a few things that my younger son has said regarding eating and food:
- A couple of years ago, we were in the car on our way to preschool. I was eating a microwaveable breakfast sandwich (on wheat bread, thankyouverymuch), and of course my younger son asked me for a bite. I handed the sandwich back to him.
“OUCH!” I heard him yelp.
“What happened?” I asked, glancing in the rearview mirror.
“I bit my finger when I took a bite, Mommy…but I didn’t bite it off.”
“Well, thank the Lord for small blessings, son,” I sighed as I reached back for the remainder of my sandwich. “Imagine trying to explain to any potential girlfriends that you lost it trying to get at your mom’s breakfast sandwich in preschool.”
· Once, when he was about 3, he was sitting at the table eating lunch. He stopped chewing for a moment and looked up at me. “Mommy?” he said. “My teeth are tired.”
And I remember thinking, Holy shit. Did he just exhaust himself from eating? Apparently not, though, because after a quick break during which he flexed those little jaws, he dove right back into that mac and cheese like a BOSS.
· Last summer he looked at me and said, quite simply, “Mommy, my belly is hungry. It wants to eat all the food.”
And I thought to myself, Just another way that another one of my boys is exactly like me. Because I always want to eat all the food.
· For about 3 months last fall, both of my boys had a habit of climbing into bed with my husband and me sometime in the middle of the night. It was something that happened almost nightly, which I totally didn’t mind because I knew it wouldn’t last forever (they’ve already stopped doing it—insert sad emoji), and I swear I savor every minute of them being young.
I woke in the morning to my younger son’s wide, adorable face grinning on the pillow next to mine.
It was the most bizarre thing: this huge, laughing grin complete with happy sighs and chuckles—yet he was still sound asleep. I thought to myself, as parents often do, “I wonder what he’s dreaming about. It must be a damn good dream; what’s making him so happy?”
And then he answered my question when he talked in his sleep: “Did you get one in your lunch, too?”
My son had been dreaming about lunchtime with his friends at preschool. If I had to take a guess, I’d bet my life savings that he’d been dreaming about Little Debbie snack cakes. Once or twice a week, I’ll pack one of those in his lunch as a treat.
Then there wasthe time that he’d had pancakes for breakfast, veggies and dip and a cookie for snack, and cheese, carrots, and an orange for lunch. I know all of this because I wrote it down. I was thinking we could get him into the Guinness Book of World Records.
Before I had a chance to fill out the application form, however, my son reached across the table to my lunch, took a few bites, and then ask me for a powdered donut, which I hadn’t even been aware that we’d had.
“Why, sure, son,” I responded. “We wouldn't want you to be deprived.”
- And lastly, one night I put my boys to bed, only to hear the pitter-patter of little feet about an hour and a half later. Of course I was in the kitchen rifling through drawers for my nighttime chocolate when I looked up and saw my younger son coming around the corner.
He looked at me, cocked his head, and said, “Hey, Mommy. Let’s eat some food.”
I shrugged. Nodded. “Okay,” I said, because really, it sounded like a good plan to me.
So the other night when he fell asleep at 4:30 PM due to that goddamned daylight saving time shifting our internal clocks, I slept with one eye open because my husband and I knew that there would be repercussions at some point in the night or very early morning.
And we were right. At about 2:00 AM, I heard it. That metaphorical volcano erupting in the form of a rumbling stomach.
It was soft at first—so soft that I thought I might be dreaming. But then I heard it again—a bit more insistent this time—and slowly opened my eyes.
My son was in my bed, sort of kneeling over me so he could look down at my face as I woke. When I finally opened my eyes, I saw that his were wide in kind of a curious, excited way. He knew something was off; why was he so wide awake when it was still so dark outside?
My husband grunted and then heaved himself off of the bed to move to the couch, leaving me to deal with the situation. Smart man.
“MOMMY?” my 4-year-old said in his adorable—LOUD—squeaky voice.
Before I had a chance to answer, he continued.
“I’m really hungry for a cheeseburger. And a hot dog. Will you fix them for me?”
I started laughing. My son smiled, although he wasn’t sure exactly what was so funny. I heard his stomach growl again.
“Mommy?” he said again. “I’m really hungry for a cheeseburger and a hot dog. Is it wake-up time? Will you fix them for me?”
Somehow I managed to hold him off until 4:30 AM, at which point I was able to talk him into going into the living room and asking his dad to make him breakfast. His dad did.
I missed my early-morning workout that day, and it threw me all off, making me wish I’d have been the one to have missed my dinner the night before.
Do you know how a Type A scheduler reacts to her schedule being all jacked up?
Not well, peeps. Not well. I was tired that day. And grumpy.
And I’m not totally sure that I’m back to normal yet, so let me say it again:
Daylight saving can suck my balls.