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The care and feeding of teenaged boys

Sam was miserably sick last week. From head to toe, he looked like a battlefield. Bedraggled hair zagged over his fever-pulsing head. His cheeks were bright red, his eyes watered, his nose wept. Tonsils threatened to explode, muscles from his shoulders to his ankles howled. He coughed, sneezed, and complained of angry stomach pains and crushing fatigue. I noted all this and realized cold washcloths and warm soup weren’t going to be enough to pummel away the assault. I took him to the doctor so we could figure out why he was the human equivalent of a wrung-out dishcloth.

They swabbed his throat and his nose. The nose sample was positive for influenza—The Flu, in capital letters. The throat swab was negative (but later returned positive, so he had The Flu and strep throat at the same time).

While waiting for results, I heard the doctor outside the exam room door tell someone the kid in Room 4—our room—looked like he had been hit by a truck. I silently agreed as I looked at my boy lying on the table. His feet hung off. He had a box of tissues. He moaned.

“Mom?” he whispered.

“Yes?”

“On the way home, can you get a cheeseburger for me?”

I snorted aloud because amazement makes that noise. But the teenaged boy appetite doesn’t brake for vicious viruses and belligerent bacteria. His appetite wanted big meat, big grease, and big cheese. I knew he wasn’t talking about a dainty BlickDonald’s cheeseburger. He would want something taller than a smartphone with a dozen strips of bacon layered throughout. A year ago, he was my pickiest eater. Now, the pursuit of Much Food is one of his driving forces. I’m thankful for teenaged boy growth spurts. It inspired him to branch out. It’s provided a lot of wonder and amusement.

Last night, we were joking over leaving Ryley home alone while everyone else went out. He knew we were kidding, but his number one concern was, “What would I eat?”

My husband said, “I’d leave you with a box of cereal, a jug of milk, and a box of waffles.”

Sam, without missing a beat, said, “Ryley would only live for two hours.”

It’s funny because it’s true. I always thought it was a cliche, but it’s not. Teenagers, especially boys, eat a lot. A lot. And I’ve done the math. Tommy just turned 12 on Monday. He’ll join the frenzy soon. Joel, at 10, isn’t far behind. All that chowing down leads to children who are taller than their mothers before she’s ready to look up at their faces.

I already look up at two of my kids. Sam, my now-better, former-sickie, cheeseburger-seeking boy inches closer daily.

Typical light snack of average teenaged male

P.S. Did Sam get his cheeseburger? No. By the time we left, he changed his mind and wanted a large macaroni and cheese from Boston Market. You know, the size that feeds a family of four. He got it.

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