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The Hungry Games

(Shared with permission)

  • Age: nine
  • Child: mine
  • Attitude: fine

Until it wasn’t. 

When one of our kids got in trouble for a garden-variety no-no, I figured the next steps would resemble the rest. Too tall to spank and not naughty enough to ground, I sent him to the back room where his timeout minutes matched his age.

He knew the rule: any yelling or screaming made the time start over. 

Normally, regret bubbled and his demeanor recovered before I returned. But this time it elevated from mad to angry to ballistic in way less than nine minutes. 

In a house on a foundation, the muffled sounds of fists beating floors might not travel through a door, down a hall, past the family room and into your parental ears. But we lived in a mobile on jacks, so the only thing below the industrial carpet and thick plywood was air. 

The backside of our ghetto-fabulous life.

I opened the hollow door. “Unless you want the time to start over, you need to stop.”

Such words usually worked wonders and turned the offender around real quick. Because obviously no one in their right mind wants to double their penalty. 

The next few minutes proved he was not in his right mind. Or his left.

From a tear and frustration to full-blown anger, I returned with the intention of a new discipline: nine new minutes. Beyond reasoning and completely unrealistic in his speech, he couldn’t even tell me why he felt unhinged. 

After trying to get him to verbalize what sent him spiraling, I realized he didn’t know. There had to be something, so I gently asked leading questions. More tears broke his hard heart and allowed me to pull him close.

I let him talk in circles, figuring he’d eventually get to some trite thoughts of having to share a room, or go to school, or eat veggies. Instead, he shocked me.

“I don’t wanna live anymore!”

My first thought revolved around how nine seemed a tad premature for freaky hormones. 

Then I felt like a terrible mom.

And then I felt like a terrible missionary. 

What’s happening? My sweet little niño… still soft and mostly gentle with pretty good manners and an outgoing personality said he was done with this life. 



I told my husband, but not another soul. How could I? We had a Parenting 101 disaster and I, the professor, possessed zero classroom control. 

A couple months later, full of nerves and half full of bravery, my husband and I shared part of our secret with some friends. They said they’d pray but it seemed like they thought we did something wrong… like we needed to up our Christian parenting game.

Everyone knows if you nurse your babies and take them to church and pray over them when they’re sleeping, you’re pretty much guaranteed they’re gonna turn out great. Serve Jesus in another country and you’re golden.


But we evidently missed something and now we had a tween who thought he might not want to see ten. 

He recovered as quick as he spiraled and immediately went back to his cheery self. I saw no connection to any reason, so I carried on with a huge question mark of shame rolling around in my missionary mind. 

Since this rocked every ‘80s fundamental Baptist bone in my body, I did what I assumed every embarrassed Christian mother would do. 

I kept an eye on him but let it slide.


Round 2

And then, right in the middle of washing dishes and not paying attention, it happened again. On vacation at my parents’ house and completely out of our routine, my son flipped his lid.

Another minor infraction escalated from a simple question to an angry tone with a side of stomping and yelling. This wasn’t his way. Nobody would’ve described him as an angry child. His personality usually revolved between fun and playful with a side of happy.

I sent him out of the kitchen to cool off but it only made it worse. A few minutes later he stormed back in, but this time the look of panic on his face scared me and I realized he was hyperventilating. 

He gasped for air between crying and yelling. “Mom… I… can’t… breathe!”

“What’s the matter?! What happened?!”

“I… don’t know!”

My mind raced between a paper bag and 9-1-1, unclear about either.

And then, as fast as I didn’t know, I knew. 


Two-thirty-something in the afternoon and this mom-of-the-year hadn’t made lunch. With my husband gone on an errand, snacks in my belly, and my brain in vacation mode, it hadn’t occurred to me that my people might be hungry. 

I grabbed a banana and peeled it, maniac-style.

“Eat this.”

He pushed it away. “I’m not hungry!”

“Yes, I think you are, buddy.”

“No—I wanna go outside.”

“You can’t leave until you eat something. Here.”

Reluctant and still mad, he took it. One long fruit and a glass of water produced something I never thought I’d see: a changed child in less than five minutes. 

“Thanks, Mom. I feel better.”

He left and I reeled. I can’t remember if I grabbed the sink or grabbed my head, but I stood in shock. What the heck was that?!

  • The happy child who wanted to be in the thick of people?
  • The adventurous boy who sucked the marrow out of life? 
  • The sweet kid who always said he loved me?

How were these switches so easily being switched? My mind bounced from discipline and attitude to hunger and a lack of oxygen. And then it hit me: blood sugar.

Someone else in our family lives in the hypoglycemic world, and I wondered if it might be genetic.


Doctor, Doctor, Gimme the News

Months later my son sat on crunchy paper, a nurse pricked his finger, and a physician delivered the verdict.

“He’s not officially hypoglycemic, but he’s so close to the range that you should treat him like he is. More protein, less sugar, and smaller meals more often.”

She looked him in the eyes and spoke with authority. “You need to eat every couple hours, even if you don’t feel hungry.”

And then she turned to me. “Worst meal? Pancakes and syrup. Bread and sugar produces a spike and a crash. Less simple carbs, more protein.” 

Photo by Jessica Castro on Unsplash


No Bow

Here’s the part where most writers tie it up for you. If you want a pathetic attempt at connecting the spiritual dots, here ya go: 

  • Satan is the sugar.
  • The Word of God is the meat/protein.
  • You need Him, even if you don’t feel hungry.

But if you’re feeling lighthearted and don’t need a Bible verse with every hyperventilation story, I leave you with this:

Roses are red, violets are blue,

Pancakes are yummy, tacos are better.


Is someone in your family ignoring a health concern? Maybe you? Sitting on awkward exam table paper for a half hour is better than not knowing.

Go make that appointment and then let me know how I can pray for you.