Who’s Fat?

25 Feb

We were watching a movie preview, 7yo, 9yo, and I. A roly-poly cartoon man, aka the Chubby Comedic Sidekick, appeared onscreen. The kids laughed at his antics and then the 9yo pointed at him and nudged her brother, “He’s so…” She paused. She cut eye at me and they exchanged a significant glance. “He’s so rotund,” she said carefully.

Sigh. I knew what she was doing, of course. The kids think that I consider “fat” to be a bad word, on par with the “sh” or even “f” one. Of course they do, since I fall all over myself every time one of them uses it, drowning them in a torrent of basically bat-”sh” word-crazy lecture speech.

How many times has something along these lines come out of my mouth: “That’s rude! Don’t say ‘fat.’ People of any size can be healthy, and health is what matters, and character is what counts anyway, and don’t comment on someone’s appearance, and it’s important to love yourself, and…” On I go, as their eyes glaze over. Ever have that realization that you’ve become the teacher from a Charlie Brown TV special? “Wanh WANH wanh wanh WANH wanh.”

Hey, but at least she’s building her vocabulary, right? Rotund, corpulent, bovine… Yeah, I think I’m doing it wrong. Seems like they’re taking in the letter of the “fat talk” but not the spirit.

If I made the subtext of my “fat talk” the text, I’d just straight up say to the kids, “Don’t anybody have an eating disorder, ok, please pleeeeeeeease? And don’t be little bullying punks!” That might get their attention, actually. (Makes a note.)

They probably learn more from my behaviors than my words, anyway. In my mind, my regular exercise habit is about stress management first and buttoning my favorite jeans second, but how does it look from the outside? In my mind, offering fruit for dessert, and candy and treats more rarely, and regulating snack portions is about teaching them self-control, and to appreciate natural flavors, and protect their teeth, but what are they actually taking away? “Do these things so you won’t be F-A-T?”

As they grow into tweens, I have ever more opportunities to wonder. For example, I ferreted out that the reason the kids shun their down vests is they think they make them look “puffy.” Me: “OF COURSE THEY DO THEY’RE ‘PUFFY VESTS’ IT’S IN THE NAME.” My daughter doesn’t care for the shorts I bought her–they’re too “loose and flappy.” My son hates Jams-style swim trunks because they “have too much fabric. They make me look big.” They’re vocal critics of McDonald’s: “Eating there will make you fat,” my daughter solemnly informed me. My son worried about our wallow in junk food during our beach vacation last summer: “I don’t think it’s good to eat all this unhealthy food, Mama. It’s not ok for our bodies.”

Honestly, there’s no way they’re learning ALL this stuff at home. No, seriously, have you looked at an elementary school P.E. curriculum lately? It’s all “healthy eating” this and “move your body” that and “vegetables” the other and “sweat every day” on top. The stats on rising rates of childhood obesity have everyone scrambling. Does it come across to the kids as officially-sanctioned weight judgment? Maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise that the climax of an argument on the playground between my 9yo and a friend was the other little girl calling her “fat.” Well, actually, the other little girl called her “gros” and my daughter had to get yet another girl to translate from the French. These kids today! When she replayed this scene for me at bedtime, I did the frantic verbal box step:

“What?! You are not fat in the least! But if you WERE it would be no big deal. But you AREN’T! But if you WERE, who cares, it’s your wonderful insides that matter. But! You aren’t, not even a little!”

Translation, as above: “Please please don’t have an eating disorder PLEASE.”

I’ve tried and tried again to go “earnest” with my “fat talk,” so when the subject came up most recently, I took a different tack on the spur of the moment. 9yo and I were sitting at the kitchen table. 7yo came into the room, leaned against me, and said in a small voice, “Mama, am I fat?”

Me: “What?! No! Why would you ask that?”
7yo: “Because I look in the mirror and think I look fat.”
Me: “Show me. Show me the fat.”

(7yo lifted his shirt with a sheepish grin, gestured to his belly area.)

Me: “That? Psssht. That’s called ‘skin.’ Skin is important, children. It’s your largest organ!”

(They both actually laughed.)

Me (liking the good reaction, pushing recklessly forward): “You want to see some fat? Now THIS–(I raised my shirt to jiggle my generous pad of pooch fat)–THIS is fat. Look, it can talk! (I smooshed it together and apart, and lowered my voice to a rumbling growl.) ‘Hiya kids! Stay in school!’”

(They cracked up. I was kind of thrilled.)

Me: “So now you’ve seen some of my fat, you guys. Do you like me less? Do you think I’m not a good mom?”

(They shook their heads, still giggling.)

Me: “Whew! Because my body feels healthy and good, and that’s what matters to me.”

(Husband entered the room to find the kids enthusiastically palpitating my belly button.)

Me: “Look! Here’s Daddy! Daddy, we’re sharing! Got any fat bits you’d like to show off?”

Husband: “(Pause.) What ARE you doing?”

I’m think it’s clear that, as in most things parenting, I really have no idea. But, luckily or unluckily, I get the feeling I’ll have lots more chances to take a crack at this conversation.

Rotund Comedic Sidekick reporting for duty.

Rotund Comedic Sidekick reporting for duty.

8 Responses to “Who’s Fat?”

  1. owonderful February 25, 2014 at 7:42 pm #

    I just wrote something about this topic, which I’m posting tomorrow!

    • amomynous2 February 25, 2014 at 7:45 pm #

      I’ll be sure to come take a look! Great minds…! 🙂

  2. The Coconut Girl February 26, 2014 at 3:04 am #

    Friggin’ brilliant. Thank you.

    • amomynous2 February 26, 2014 at 3:13 am #

      Love you, love your work, think you’re awesome. XOX

  3. Ray Nedzel February 27, 2014 at 11:58 am #

    That is F-word wonderful.

    • amomynous2 February 27, 2014 at 2:15 pm #

      Fuck yeah, you just made my morning!!!

  4. Allison Linney March 5, 2014 at 1:33 am #

    I liked this post so much I had to write a post about it myself! Thanks for all the ways you inspire me and make me laugh, dear one!!
    http://www.allisonpartners.com/wwrn/entry/how_do_you_talk_about_whos_fat

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Lovely Links: 2/28/14 - Already Pretty | Where style meets body image - February 28, 2014

    […] “Me: ‘So now you’ve seen some of my fat, you guys. Do you like me less? Do you think I’m not a good mom?’ (They shook their heads, still giggling.) Me: ‘Whew! Because my body feels healthy and good, and that’s what matters to me.’” […]

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