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The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

What to feed the baby next?

Maybe I was a little ahead of the throngs, but when I strolled into his high school one morning recently, based on Thirteen’s reports, I expected to push through knuckle-dragging linebackers and towering hair-obsessed damsels. These larger-than-life characters populate Thirteen’s subconscious and often come visiting in the middle of the night, when he has a bad dream. And just as we did when he was younger, he tells me what happened in the dream and then we put it in a bubble and blow it away.

Walking through the hallway I saw, simply, teenagers: teenagers with backpacks; teenagers eating the last of their breakfasts; sleepy teenagers; teenagers with dyed hair trying to figure out who they are. I arrived at my son’s classroom where he was calculating problems on a worksheet just behind two of these behemoths; they were greeting him warmly. I presented Thirteen with his forgotten lunch. He played it cool: “Oh, yeah, I guess I might need that.” And then I saw what he sees—mini adults with iPhones and swagger, a foot or more taller than he is, shouldering their overweight backpacks and the world with apparent ease. And then he did what he often does and leaned the top of his head toward me for a kiss. The peck and the lunch delivered, I left him to his work.

Thirteen’s lunch contains the same thing every day of the week: half a turkey, lettuce and cheese sandwich; an apple and a full-sized carrot; something crunchy like pretzels or popcorn; a water bottle and a tiny treat. With little variation I’ve been making this lunch for him since second grade when he decided he really couldn’t abide school cafeteria food. Ten takes her lunch too: a mini whole-wheat bagel with cream cheese, applesauce, popcorn or goldfish, a clementine, a carrot and a treat. With so much predictability and so little variation in menu, you would think making these lunches would be automatic. Instead, it’s ten minutes of my morning when I can’t really think about anything else—just get those lunches made, packed into their insulated lunch sacks, the water bottles filled, and don’t forget the ice blocks. Too often I don’t get started until there are just a few minutes before the arrival of the first bus, so I rush and risk switching the items between lunch packs or leaving out the ice blocks completely.

I’ve said it so many times that I’ve worn a groove in the record, but from the second they were born, feeding my children has been the most stressful part of being their mother. I’ve been a tyrant about sugar, insisted on whole grains, and won’t let them drink soda except as a special treat. Hard candy has been virtually outlawed, they don’t chew gum, and their approved sweets are rationed. If a fruit or vegetable can replace a crunchy snack, we go that route.

“But Mommy,” Thirteen will remind me, only half joking, “my friends all drink Mountain Dew and they’re enormous.”

He’s right. They are. This is the year that boys begin to grow and reach towering heights. Thirteen’s friends over the summer bypassed their parents in height, and they weigh, in some cases, nearly twice his 78 pounds. How can I not second-guess what I feed him? Whether I feed him enough? What to make for dinner?

This summer the chorus of questioners became larger. My reassurances that his growth spurt was bound to happen trailed off in favor of

It was a long morning …

consulting with the pediatrician, an endocrinologist, and his geneticist. And so we found ourselves in a clinic room, Thirteen plugged into an IV, for a series of blood tests to determine whether his body is making appropriate amounts of the hormones he needs. The test took four and a half hours, from start to finish, and involved medications, needles, ten timed blood draws, and a frightening injection of insulin during which he became dopey, sweaty, and limp. We will wait three weeks before we have results.

While we wait (and wait and wait), I remain grateful to the geneticist who assures me that just like Thirteen’s array of early-childhood issues, his health now is related to his own body chemistry, not something I may or may not have done as his mother. I am grateful, too, to another mother who reminds me that eating healthily builds a disease-proof body. I am grateful that I have two children who eat well when they’re hungry and don’t overeat.

I have always known that Thirteen would not be an overly large man, but walking back through the high school hallway on my way to my car, I was arrested by MEN and WOMEN in black and white tiles announcing the student restrooms. I didn’t see men and women when I looked around; Thirteen, waiting for those hormones to kick in whether spontaneously or with medical intervention, must see them everywhere he looks.

The full frosty moon shines on us all at the end of November. Wishing you a lively month ahead filled with the sweetest of delights. Thanks, as always, for sharing my journey, Rxo

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