Boys and Food

2765 2765_ () 2765 2765 Every day when they get home from school, my boys ask me if I went grocery shopping. Four times out of five I say no, I didn’t (because I just went yesterday or two days ago). But once a week, the answer to their question is a much-anticipated “yes!”

The next question, naturally, is “what did you get?”

This never means “did you get more carrots” or “did you remember toilet paper.” It ultimately means what treats did you get, and did those treats include individually-wrapped servings.

I go through phases where I deliberately don’t buy the junk. I want my boys to get in the habit of reaching for the apples and slices of cheese. But then I come to my senses and realize that over the course of a week (but not a day, mind you) the boys do indeed get a nice variety of fruits and vegetables and dairy, and allowing them the small pleasure of a perfectly processed snack cake in their lunch box isn’t an over-indulgence.

There is one boy around here who would live off ice-cream, if I let him. Maybe I’m deluding myself but I think ice-cream is simply a perfect combination of milk, sugar and eggs. It’s practically health food. What’s the harm in that?

The harm, of course, is that second (and third) helping when I’m not looking so of course I’m always looking. I allow this boy his treat — one ramekin of chocolate ice-cream before hitting the books each afternoon.

One day, the boys came home and I had been particularly free-wheeling at the store. Everything they asked for — chocolate milk mix, sausage biscuits, snack cakes for lunches — I bought it all. I decided to give this a try, buying the foods they love and then rationing when they could eat them. We would have a set schedule and I wondered how they’d react.

It turns out they didn’t mind at all. All that mattered was that I had purchased the items and brought them home, into our house and onto our shelves.

“Did you get Life cereal,” asked one boy.

“I did,” said I.

“Did you get waffles,” asked another boy.

“They were on sale,” I happily replied.

“Did you get ice-cream,” asked a third boy.

And when I told him I did indeed get ice-cream, that boy gasped and then walked across the kitchen to where I stood.

“I love you,” he said, wrapping his arms around my waist. He was absolutely sincere.

Feed the hungry. That’s a corporal work of mercy. And during this season of my life, it’s how I’m building the church.

Food is my boys’ love language and I continue to be amazed at the difference it makes in our home. On those magical days when the boys come home to find the larders full, I can sense the difference.

Psychologically, I don’t quite understand it. Maybe they feel secure, maybe they feel at peace. Perhaps it all speaks to that innate hunter/gatherer aspect of a male personality, but that wouldn’t totally explain things because with that theory they would be the ones out shopping.

Ultimately, I only understand that when I buy food, my boys feel loved by me. To them, buying groceries is the most important part of what I do.

The truth is I am called to do so many things for them. My vocation as mom calls me to be the hands and feet of Jesus to these children in my home. And of all the ways I care for them — working to have a well-ordered home and clean sheets and loving Jesus and my husband and this life God’s given me — well top priority, in this season, seems to be the food.

Right now, it’s all about food.

This originally ran in The Southern Cross. 2765″ .



  1. Thank you Rachel! I read this right before I went food shopping today, and snacks are the one thing I always feel stingy about buying. I feel like they do nothing but eat (which is pretty close to the truth), and with money being tight I have a hard time justifying the junk food. But you’re right – they eat mostly healthy, and a few treats won’t hurt them. The boys will be happy to come home to chips and salsa today 🙂
    I’d be happy to hear what your family after-school snack favorites are.

  2. Well, Rachel, you know the old saying: “The way to a man’s (boys – ha! 😉 heart is through his stomach.” Maybe that has more than a mere grain of truth to it!

  3. Oh, thank you for this!

  4. I remember reading in your book about how nothing says love to boys like processed food and laughing out loud. It’s true. My 13 year old could survive on fast food/processed food all day every day and not regret it at all. I guess we do have to balance out the healthy with the processed. I think they are growing so fast that they do need a lot of calories and there’s got to be some nutrition in some of that junk, right?

  5. A Different Julie says

    Laughing right along as I recall how my boy would scan the receipt in case I had forgotten to tell him about some item I’d bought! And also, now that he is grown, using a patented technique I picked up from my wonderful mother-in-law: the phone call (or text, these days) that I fixed a favorite food and had extra, just in case he wants to stop by for it. I’m happy to report a 99% success rate.

  6. There is no other day that I “feel the love” in my house more than when I pull into the driveway from Costco. You’d think it was Christmas morning. I get no complaints about unloading as they all anxiously scan the bounty in the back of the Suburban for their favorite thing. Microwave Angus Burgers? Check. Pizza Rolls? Check. Hot Pockets? Check. Food is definitely the love language around here!!!

  7. My boys (I have four) will even help me unload the car and put things away when I’ve come home from that big trip to the store – they know it’s the best way to see everything I bought! I’m glad to know that mine aren’t the only kids that get a little over-the-top excited on grocery day.

  8. Love this. 🙂

  9. My 7 year old loves it when I come home with Slim Jims. Isn’t that just weird?
    The family favorite snacks are
    salty: tortilla chips and shredded cheese zapped in the wave.
    sweet:ice cream.

    It’s not that I don’t like ice cream. I do. It’s just that when I make the occasional yummy dessert my family doesn’t care about it unless there’s ice cream to go with it.