Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Boys and Bringing in Groceries

Last week About three weeks ago I read Boys and Food by Rachel at Testosterhome.
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.
This came back to my mind a few days ago.  There was a planned power outage, and since husband Kevin works at home, and needs a computer for his work, and therefore couldn't work, he decided to go shopping.  In our rural area, "going shopping" means an hour trip to Costco or WinCo to stock up the garage freezer and the pantry.

 Kevin has traditionally been the actual hunter/gatherer here because for a long time I was the primary caretaker for toddlers and medically fragile children and it made more sense for him to do the grueling trip and cruising of the aisles.  He can keep prices in his head and even do a quick $/lb type calculation on the wing, while for me it takes longer and doesn't go well with boys being attracted towards the candy aisle.

Anyway, we have had a system in place for close to a decade and a half now where when Dad pulls in with an SUV-load of groceries, all the kids go out and unload them and put them away.  It is about the closest our family ever comes to automated regularity.   The car drives up, every kid in the house piles outside and starts hauling groceries. 

Nowadays, "all the kids" means Kieron, Aidan and Paddy.   But it still happens.  This is one chore where (1) no one has to be reminded (2) no one complains.  It's always been somewhat of a mystery to me and still is.

But now I am wondering if some of Rachel's musings could help explain it.  Some ideas that come to mind:

(1)  This literal "bringing home the bacon" strikes an innate responsive chord in them.  ... wakes up their inner hunter/gatherer.
(2)  It is something innately and directly worthwhile.   They go, they see, they conquer.  The food goes right from the car to the kitchen counter to the larder.  It is subdued and prepared.  It allows them to use their strength and see, in return, a tangible result. 
(3) It is about FOOD.  And food is a love language; it speaks to the heart of boys.

Rachel also mentioned something that runs straight to the heart of boys -- the favored Bringing Home of Treats.

Husband Kevin is very good about bringing home a couple of food items that are more "for fun".  Probably most of us have our memories stocked with a few stories from the Little House books or elsewhere, where the parents bring home a couple of treats, like sugar sticks, along with the basic staples when they come back from a trip "to town".

Does anyone have the Pathway Readers around the house?   These storybooks transcend the "reader" genre.  They are about Amish kids and often involve a character trait, but in my opinion aren't sappy or over-heavy-handed like some moral tales.    In one story I remember, a boy is aggrieved because his parents have come back from shopping with ONLY basics, no extra treat.   He complains, and his father tells him that the basics really are the treat -- that he is blessed because he has plenty to eat of nourishing food.  He shouldn't get annoyed because his parents didn't bring home any extra.

I know I said these tales aren't overly heavy handed, and the way I've told this one sounds like it is.  But trust me.   It stuck in my mind because of course, we are like this with God sometimes.  We complain because we don't get the perks, because life has a few difficult parts, and forget to acknowledge that breathing and eating and being sheltered are really, really good things.

Still, what Rachel says is true.  There is something about a Treat that speaks to a child's heart.   The treat doesn't have to be huge.  Laura Ingalls and her siblings were thrilled by candy sticks at Christmas.  But treats seem to connotate plenty and abundance.   God does this, after all.  "Our cups overflow" -- overflowing cups might seem wasteful to a thrifty farm family, but there is something about the occasional extra that is like honey to the heart.   In that respect, even though the Amish father was right in teaching his son to have a grateful heart, the boy was on to something too, even if reacting badly.  He was recognizing that treats have a language of their own.

The other reason that the story has stuck in my mind is that none of my kids has ever complained about what we brought home.   And it's not that my kids never complain.   And it's not that they don't get as thrilled about fun food as any other growing boys.  Sometimes they express happiness if they see one of their favorite foods come out of the cooler or grocery bags.  But they just don't express disappointed expectations. 

Again, I wonder if it's because of that food as a love language thing.   Maybe they feel like acting disappointed would be like telling Dad he was a failure as a hunter-gatherer and that just seems to infringe too much on the relationship.   There seems to be an element of good-sportsmanship there, of loyalty to the father.   I am only guessing based on observation.    But it seems like a good trait to me.  If their attitude to the groceries reflects their attitude towards God's providence, I hope they will be joyful about the "treats" but grateful and content with the sufficiencies. 


  1. When I get home from grocery shopping (I do it not my dh) I have to go hunt the boys out because they are usually somewhere like the basement where they don't know if I've arrived home or not. They are pretty helpful at bringing in the food, mostly because they are curious about what I've bought and also I always buy some kind of cookie or treat and they usually break into it right away. My kids do regularly complain about food though. I know I went terribly wrong somewhere in their upbriinging. LOL! If I got wheat bread instead of white, if I bought the wrong brand of something (they, like their father are very brand oriented, whereas I'm more like if it's on sale let's try that brand or just to try something a little different I want to see if I like another brand better), or inevitably someone will have asked me to get a particular thing and I almost always forget! I'm really bad like that. Lately though I've been trying to take a child with me shopping so we can have sort of a date and we can discuss things like food, nutrition, prices and whatever else. Of course my kids are all older. I remember well trying to shop with lots of little ones in tow.

  2. I asked my son why he and his brother bring in the groceries. He replied that this is the way we've always done it. The boys bring the groceries in and the girls put them away. This started when I was pregnant with one of them and by the time I got home from grocery shopping I was too tired to haul everything into the house. Basically, the boys bring in the groceries because boys carry heavy things for girls. That's about it.


I would love to hear your thoughts on this!