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facts & arguments

Taryn Gee/The Globe and Mail

Facts & Arguments is a daily personal piece submitted by readers. Have a story to tell? See our guidelines at

My parents are moving back from Nova Scotia because they want to be near their teenage grandkids. I really don't know if they can afford it.

I warn my mom over the telephone that bringing along a fattened cow, a couple of pigs and cousin Mike's henhouse might be a good idea. In fact, I wonder if they have enough RRIFs to hang out with their grandchildren through the years leading up to adulthood.

Our family of five's food consumption is through the roof. We used to brag about leaving Costco with a grocery bill of $200. Today, I can easily spend $200 on chips and bulk Sour Keys without even slipping a book in the cart for me. Their appetites are never satisfied. And the snort-inhaling of food is contagious among their Friday-night teenage groupies and two-bag chip eaters. Whoever thought of supersizing packages of chips was a master of enabling teenage addictions.

My parents say, in their loving, doting, retired way that they want to be on the 401 university travel route. Our eldest eater has suggested that Nana and Grandpa align themselves with all-you-can-eat buffets and fast-food drive-throughs when choosing their new real estate location.

Where is the love? Evidently it is in the gut.

One day, our middle son announced at the breakfast table while ingesting his super-healthy Froot Loops that "Cole has the same problem at his house!"

"What's that?" I ask.

"They have no food either!"


"Yup. We are both looking forward to our university meal-plan cards."

I start having flashbacks to our first-born's meal plan. I recall how every trip home for holidays or appointments cost us $200 in Costco top-ups and protein powder.

It seems to me that the meal card cannot even take the edge off of teenage hunger. The university meal plans are not what they were for us late-1980s and early-1990s graduates! I recall putting on the Freshman 15 quite nicely, and guys sneaking extra sandwiches for in-between meals in their knapsacks. Oh, the days of the unlimited meal plans!

I search for a clever response to the shared extrapolations of our starving middle son and his peers. Perhaps I should remind him about the starving children in Africa, but I know this will fall on deaf ears.

Right behind middle starving son is third-born teenage princess, who is contemplating taking up hoarding of cookies, cereals and chips in her bedroom closet to ensure her siblings don't inhale all of the food on the way to their caves.

My daughter asks that I double up on taco shells because if both boys are home, plus Dad, she will not receive enough sustenance to carry her through the evening.

I want to cry out, "Eat your greens!" to ward off scurvy and anti-inflammatory diseases, but the kids pick out the tiny kale pieces I hide in their spaghetti sauce. Little do they know I've been pureeing broccoli in their food since infanthood.

I would be remiss if I forgot to mention the dinner after dinner: the whole box of cookies and litre of milk; the Moose Tracks ice cream my daughter hides in the downstairs freezer underneath bread and frozen broccoli so her brothers are less likely to steal her lactose bliss.

Just the other day, my exam-writing son declared via many text messages that he had an upset stomach. I responded with the typical questions and advice: What did you eat? Maybe it's exam stress? Don't overdo it with the dairy and processed foods. He responds with details about his cheese-laden meal, and I remind him about his lactose intolerance. The teenage gut is a bottomless pit.

My middle guy will melt in my arms and embrace me lovingly when his favourite white-powdered doughnuts appear on the counter after a particularly hard day at school and only one packed lunch.

The crock pot of pulled pork, plus the BBQ ribs and the three-inch steaks from Costco bring tears of joy and complete silence at the dinner table (other than the gnashing of teeth and chairs pulling back to allow for abdominal expansion).

Gone are the days of three meals and a few snacks. I work for food.

I wish my second-born all the best as he awaits the university meal card. My husband and I will await the three-buggy Costco trips next Thanksgiving. I wonder if anyone has ever asked the bank for a teenage-gut line of credit.

I've also heard that after university they come back – maybe even with others – so I wonder, does the teenage gut transform into the debt-ridden-educated gut?

My retired parents may just end up looking for jobs in the food industry upon their return to Ontario.

"I hear they give employee discounts at McDonald's," states my daughter.

My older son says he may introduce them to "dumpster diving."

Oh Lord, have mercy!

Charmaine Zankowicz lives in Oakville, Ont.