The up and down boy

Sometimes my younger son doesn’t seem himself – tired, drained and emotional. He worries me a bit. But I know what he needs.


Give him something to eat and he perks back up to his normal self.

It’s happened a lot lately. I’m starting to wonder if he ought to see a doctor. His reactions are so extreme. When he’s tired like this I really can’t do a thing with him. He says his legs won’t work. The other day he fell asleep in the car in the afternoon on the way back from town (it’s only a couple of miles away).

When he was at primary school, he used to come home ‘starving’. The school dinner portions of something like a small pizza slice and a couple of potato wedges weren’t really enough for a big year 6 boy. When he started secondary school, we had high hopes for bigger dinners. After much deliberation, we decided taking a snack for break time and having a cooked lunch at the very late lunchtime of 1.30pm would work for him.

But, within days, he realised it wouldn’t work. He had things to do at lunchtime – starting with rehearsals for his concert. One day, he was completely unable to eat and ended up getting two crackers and a piece of cheese at 2.30pm. So he’s decided to eat at breaktime (11.30am). There’s no proper meals at break time – just baguettes and paninis.

His online account shows ‘small baguette’ or ‘small panini’ every day. Not even large ones! I’ve offered more food from home, but he won’t take it. He says there’s no time to eat it. Other parents told me they had to put a stop to their sons’ out of control spending on their school food accounts when it got to four bars of chocolate a day. I had to put a stop to it with my eldest – who was taking a packed lunch, but then buying more at school than his brother.

It’s not enough for a growing boy and he’s coming home weak and drained. I try to encourage him to eat more at home.

Food, Carbs, son

Carbs – keeping tween and teen boys alive since 2003

He’s also started saying sugar gives him a headache. I don’t encourage my kids to eat sweets, but I’m sure it’s not just my family where small packs of Haribo seem to appear out of nowhere – there’s always a kid with a birthday giving them out. My son won’t eat them any more.

Talking to my husband about it, he threw a curve ball.

‘We need to watch him. I hope he’s not bipolar.’

Now there’s something I hadn’t thought of. And, yes, I realise you don’t get a diagnosis of depression or bipolar based on being a bit up and down and tired. But it got me thinking.

It’s something I never thought I would hear from my husband’s mouth. He’s one of those people who doesn’t ‘believe’ in mental health problems – ‘I’m not depressed about it, so why is s/he?’ ‘What have you got to be anxious/ depressed about, you’re lucky etc etc.’ I’m the one who looks out for these signs in my own kids. I was concerned for a while that my daughter was showing signs of anxiety around sleep, but it hadn’t crossed my mind with my son. I just thought it was purely a physical problem.

By contrast, his brother is straightforward. Yes, he’s grumpy, careless and uncooperative, but he’s a teenage boy. Everything I read about teenage boys could be written about my son. He’s textbook.

My younger son isn’t like that. He’s special. (And before you all jump on me for being nasty and ‘favouring’ one son over the other, that’s not what I mean. Special kids are at both ends of the academic spectrum.) He’s highly intelligent, gifted and talented. A high flier. Gifted and talented people are prone to mental health problems.

So I’ll be watching him carefully. For physical AND mental health problems.

And I’ll be feeding him. Regularly.

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. Phone just ate my massive comment! Was just saying my same age boy also gets weak and emotional at times – I am putting it down to hormonal turmoil. Mine is a cliched teenaged/pre-teen boy tho – ALWAYS hungry. Do you think yours has taken the recent sugar scare stories to heart? What we sometimes forget with our bright children is that they take on all the information, but they are still kids with no adult perspective to frame it in. We have seen every food demonised at some point so put these things into a balance, for them it is much newer and they don’t have all the experience to process it sensibly so can just end up scared of certain foods.

    Do visit the GP if you stay worried tho, always worth making sure nothing more serious going on xx

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks very much, I think you’re right! Reassuring to hear another boy of the same age reacts in the same way.
      Strangely, my super bright boy pays no attention to news or current affairs at all, so he’s probably completely unaware of the scares!
      He seems to eat a lot in the evenings, but not enough in the daytime. x

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  2. My youngest daughter is very much the same, she doesn’t want to eat but gets tired and crabby when she doesn’t. It is difficult trying to convey the reason she is tired and grumpy is because she is not eating, but then she is grumpy with me trying to get her to eat. It is a vicious circle and like you, I continue to monitor her emotionally and physically x

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    • It’s hard work, isn’t it? But reassuring to hear other kids are like this. I’ve talked to my son (when he’s not hungry and being rational) about the way he gets irrational and the importance of eating before it gets out of hand, but somehow he always forgets when it matters!

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  3. Good luck with getting to the bottom of it. Certainly worrying especially when they’re on the go so much. Would he eat packed lunches if that went in with him at break times? Or something like soup in a flask which is easy to drink on the go, rather than necessarily needing to sit down and eat at a table?

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    • I’ve offered him a packed lunch, but he won’t have one. Sadly there’s a fair amount of 12 year old stubborn behaviour making things worse! The soup sounds like a really good idea, but of course my fussy boy wouldn’t touch it with a bargepole! 🙁

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  4. I know both of my two can get really emotional and often quite angry when they are hungry. Are the school open to you sending in food. The above idea of soup in a flask sounds good as would be quick to get down when he is busy. Or cereal bars that he can snack on throughout the day?

    Post a Reply
    • The school are fine about him taking in food, it’s just the nature of my stubborn 12 year old that means he’s not fine with it! He takes one snack, but won’t take any more. Cereal bars would be perfect to keep him going!

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  5. Gosh, that is a big thing to be thinking about at his age but good that it is now in your awareness and you can keep an eye. My son if also G&T (thats gfted and talented rather than the drink!) and we see some extremities of behavour too. I hope some of it does turn out to be the regular ups and downs of growing up. Mich x

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks very much, I really hope so too! I guess he’s starting puberty, which messes with them anyway. On the whole, my boy is remarkably rounded and ‘normal’ for a G&T child. Interesting that you notice differences in your son too. x

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  6. It sounds like it’s a tough time for him and reading this made me think of my diabetes. It probably isn’t but might be worth just getting it ruled out. It’s a super quick test and if it isn’t then you know it’s not sugar related and might be something else, hopefully just raging hormones x

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    • Thanks, that has been at the back of my mind, but I figured his symptoms would be a lot worse if that was the case. I must say everyone’s comments have been quite reassuring, which I really appreciate. I suppose hormones are the most likely explanation! x

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  7. My boys are both much younger but I can also totally understand your concern. Our eldest is a type 1 diabetic so we have a lot of experience with blood sugar levels. If your lad is growing and not hungry poor lad must be getting low sugars which will make him feel rough, no energy, sick can get the shakes. Have a look at long slow releasing carbs such as oat bars etc I am not sure it will help but I know how much it effects my little one and having a look at food such as little and often may help out xxxx

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks very much, I really appreciate your input. It must be so hard having a child with type 1 diabetes. Oat bars sound sensible – I think slow release carbs could make a really difference to him. x

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  8. My 13 y/o daughter eats very little at school but she’ll have a snack as soon as she comes in usually. She then won’t eat much for tea but will have supper later on. I’ve tried to get her to eat more at school but she’s just not interested so I’m just leaving her to it for now rather than make an issue of it with her. I always have healthy snacks in the fridge so if she’s going to snack then it’s not sugary foods. Hopefully it’s just a phase 😉

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks very much, that sounds a very similar pattern to my son! My problem with him is that he often stays late at school for rugby or drama, so won’t even get home until 🙁 I think we need more healthy foods in the fridge too – he tends to go for carbs, which aren’t too bad, but he could do better!

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  9. As a teacher of teens it could just be his age. I remember my Mother in Law saying that my husband used to come in from school and eat a whole loaf of bread!!! Hopefully it will just be a phase he grows out of. It is hard mothering boys when you’re not a boy yourself! x

    Post a Reply
    • Thanks very much. I’d never thought of that, but you make a good point! How are we supposed to understand boys?! I know I always ate a lot as a teen too, so I guess he’s just growing fast! x

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