It takes a warehouse to raise a teen boy


FEEDING AN adolescent boy is like trying to fill a dump truck with a teaspoon - no matter how fast you shovel, it doesn't seem to get any closer to full.

And to make matters worse, the truck keeps getting bigger.

My fellow mothers and I are watching snack foods and convenience foods fly off our pantry shelves, and dinner disappears in a bite or two. That's because we have boys on the cusp of becoming men.

The growth rate of an adolescent boy is second only to that of a newborn. His weight will almost double - from about 75 pounds to about 150 - and his height will increase by as much as 14 inches between the ages of 11 and 18.

These boys are consuming between 2,000 and 3,500 calories a day - without chewing - while their mothers are battling to stay below 1,200. No wonder we don't get along.

"It is a constant grazing pattern," says my friend Nan, who is feeding her third adolescent boy, "punctuated by frequent helpings of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy."

Our boys get up from the table and immediately pour themselves a bowl of cereal. Or, in the case of my friend Susan's son, Andrew, three or four.

"He eats a box of cereal every day," says Susan. "He eats three bowls while he's waiting for me to put dinner on the table."

These boys then fall into bed, where they sleep heavily while simultaneously growing out of the jeans and shoes we just purchased.

As a matter of fact, aside from eating, the primary things this age group does is generate laundry and hand-me-downs. And they have to sleep 12 hours each weekend night to do that much.

The boys come down to breakfast in the morning with ever-larger hands and feet, and we worry that they have more in common with puppies than their physical enthusiasm and their disregard for tidiness.

Oh, God! What if they grow into those paws? What then?

My fellow mothers and I meet in the aisles of the grocery store and the food warehouse, filling our carts with family-sized portions of carbohydrates that we know will be consumed by just one member of the family. Talk about a misnomer.

Teen boys have their own food pyramid and at the base is what we mothers call the "beige" food group: pasta, rice, chicken, ice cream, bread, cereal and doughnuts.

On top is stacked the sodium food group, the carbonated food group, the sugar food group, the pizza food group and the drive-through-window food group.

At the peak of this food pyramid is a tiny triangle labeled fruits and vegetables. What a joke. These boys only eat corn, an honorary member of the beige food group. Susan's son Andrew once tried to convince her that the coffee beans that flavored his ice cream counted as a vegetable.

"I can't worry about nutrition any more," says Betsy, who long ago sacrificed quality to quantity. Her 14-year-old son, Jack, requires more fuel than most because he swims three hours every day. "I just buy whatever is in the bulk food aisle.

"He eats everything in the house and then he complains that there is nothing in the house to eat. He's an eating machine. I think it hits his stomach whole. I just try to stay out of the way."

But the toughest part for my fellow mothers and me is not the grocery bill or the kitchen mess or the unbalanced nutrition or the disgusting manners.

No. The tough part is trying to wrap our little boys in a too-rare embrace and discovering that they are not so little anymore.

Pub Date: 6/14/98

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