The whole parenting thing is rather beyond me. I am not a sentimental, emotional person. I don't long for the days when my son, JT, could fit into that cute onesie. I don't melt over the smell of a baby's head. My take on parenting is pretty much to keep him as healthy as possible and train him to be a decent adult. Time will tell if I'm coming close.
But something is happening that is just about making me burst with pride. JT and my husband, Dev, got into it a few weeks ago—I can't remember what about—and JT said, "Dad and I just need something to eat."
I should note that this has been an ongoing crusade of mine since Dev and I got married. We argued a lot that first year (well, I thought we did), and I quickly began to realize we argued less when I was well-rested. That put me on the lookout. Sleep and blood sugar turned out to be two of the defining variables in our day-to-day interactions. Even though I thought it silly, I took on the task of reminding my best beloved that perhaps the world isn't specifically out to get him. Maybe he just needs a sandwich.
This condition is not localized. Just yesterday, my sister had to put her 40-something husband down for a nap.
When we adopted JT, he had a habit of waking from naps crying. My mom suggested maybe he was hungry. And homework used to be an absolute bear until we started giving him snacks right after school. I am nothing if not slow on the uptake, but eventually I caught on that the child needed food pretty regularly.
But considering my experiences with Dev, I knew that wasn't enough. I couldn't just feed JT—I had to teach him how to realize he was hungry. Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? But I knew from my years in college, when I hovered around 112 at 5'7", that sometimes you don't know you're hungry. And a lot of times, you don't realize you're making bad choices because your blood sugar's low. And sometimes you need someone to say the words: "That fuzziness you're feeling in your head? That grouchiness? That's hunger. To fix this, eat food. See how well that worked?"
So, tucked away inside all my parenting failures, I am proud of this: at the age of 12, my son can (sometimes) recognize that his feelings are being influenced by hunger and fatigue. And he will (sometimes) have the presence of mind to say, "I need a nap, or perhaps a sandwich."
To his future wife: You're welcome.
Kersley Fitzgerald is a former Air Force officer, former Air Force wife, and current editor of Got Questions’ blog site, Blogos.org. She and her husband adopted JT from Thailand when he was 18 months old. He has spent the ensuing years teaching her more about God than any theology course could.