I looked at him, his eyes filled with worry. I looked at my watch: 12:45 pm. Way past lunch time. I looked at my husband again, and together we turned to look at my daughter. We were afraid.
Code Food is a term my husband coined on a road trip to describe that awful moment when you realize your kid is hungry, you don’t have any snacks on hand, and it may be too late; that hunger is about to transform your beloved into a snarling, grumpy wolverine of a child. On a scale of 1 to Zombie Apocalypse, Code Food is about an 8. On the Pediatric Terrorism Alert Scale, a Code Food is red. Wrapped in barbed wire. And set on fire. Code Food means danger.
Kids are finely-calibrated animals. You must keep them fueled on a very tight schedule, or everything goes haywire. If they normally eat lunch at 11:30, you better feed them at 11:30, or as close to 11:30 as you can, because if an hour goes by without food, they will become angry, but they will not understand why. If you get them some food, they may scream at you that they aren’t hungry, because they believe the reason they are angry is that the whole world sucks. But if you can get something in their stomachs, a miracle will happen in about twenty minutes- your lovely, sweet child will return. Thank goodness for mac and cheese!
Food and kids is always tricky. In the beginning, I struggled with the breast feeding and bottle feeding and deciding when to introduce solid foods. At the time, I couldn’t imagine that food could get more challenging when my daughter got older. But when a baby is hungry, she cries, so the first thing you try is shoving something in her mouth. If she stops crying, success! You figured it out!
When they get older, though, kids start showing their personalities in ways that don’t involve crying. And those personalities are amazing and wonderful and awe-inspiring and being a parent is the best thing in the world! But sometimes? Kids are jerks. They yell at you randomly. They roll their eyes at your very funny jokes. They growl at you when you ask them to turn the TV down, and you wonder if your child is perhaps not human but some terrifying, supernatural creature with bad hearing.
And they won’t let you shove things in their mouths. You have to offer them peanut butter or ramen noodles or strawberries and hope they accept something. Sometimes they will because they understand they are hungry. Sometimes they will just continue to growl, or yell that they aren’t hungry, which you know is not true because you are 45 minutes late in feeding them. So you pile a bunch of grapes on a plate, set them in the middle of the floor, and slowly back out of the room.
Yes, a Code Food is one of the most terrifying events in our family. It can ruin a perfectly wonderful day. But it can be averted. Every family should have an emergency preparedness kit that has at least three days worth of goldfish crackers and Capri Sun. You can prevent a Code Food. But if you can’t, run. Seriously.