When 'Hangry' Gets Dangerous


I’m sure it’s happened to you. You’re out somewhere with kids in tow and suddenly things start going awry. Your cheerful children are scowling, grumbling and starting to whine. Before you can stop it, you’ve got a full-blown meltdown on your hands. This can be embarrassing but until this week I had no idea it could be dangerous. We had surprise visitors this week and so we were on a schedule for fun! I was up early making a big breakfast for everyone because we were going hiking to a picturesque waterfall. It was going to be a great day. Everyone scarfed down piles of pancakes soaked in butter and syrup, along with ham and egg casserole. I was sure they were all full to bursting. The plan was to hike until lunch and grab a burger in town. On the way out the door, I reminded myself to grab a bag of cherries right before I got distracted by the dog and promptly forgot.

Snack-free, we headed out. It was a lovely walk that began easily enough on a wide trail. We soon descended to the rushing waterfront where the baby threw rocks in the small rapids for a while. Meanwhile, the older kids put on their waders and tromped around in the very cold water. We continued upstream, kids in the water with one adult and my friend and I following a mud trail. It began to get more difficult than expected and so I put the baby in a backpack and got serious about overcoming slippery slopes and drop-offs. Up ahead the other kids were frolicking hard like kids do.

We reached a magical surprise further upstream. A huge waterfall plummeted down toward us from at least fifty feet in the air. What a sight! The kids were squealing with delight. I spotted a rope that was used for pulling yourself safely up to the top through the branches and mud and watched a few people go up and down without issue. My friend Rick took the three older children to make the climb.

This is when it went badly…and it’s all because I forgot that stupid bag of cherries.

Halfway up, the seven-year-old slipped and bumped her leg, which caused a sudden mood change. She made it to the top with the others in spite of it. But once they reached the summit, all of the energy the three of them had stored up from breakfast had been expended by the hard physical activity and all three were experiencing low blood sugar at the same time. Poor Rick. Not only was his child about to have a breakdown, but so were mine—and he was on his own with them at the top of a 50-foot waterfall. One of my girls tells me the other one pushed her and she “almost fell down the falls.” I don’t know if I believe that. Witnesses say otherwise, but it still terrifies me to think about it. Children become irrational when not fed properly, and mine usually start fighting with one another. I shudder to think that my slip-up with the snacks could have cost me one of my children. Their fast metabolisms require more food to keep up their energy and good humor. Without those things, they were in trouble at the top of a very slippery hill and quickly losing impulse control.

Rick got them all down, whining, wet, miserable and hangry. It was a very long hike back to the car with me promising myself to never leave home again without some string cheese and almonds. As adults, we can go a long time without eating (or just existing on coffee) and sometimes we forget that the little ones around us should really be eating a little something every two hours to keep up their energy for their ever-growing bodies (especially when doing lots of physical activity).

We made it home, dried off, cooked up some steaks and green beans, and they were back to their pleasant selves in no time. Don’t make the same mistake I did. Pack snacks. Snacks could actually save your kid’s life.