Thursday, 12 January 2012

fat is the question

How am I supposed to know these things?

That is the question I keep asking myself when I am expected to come up with well-rounded balanced non-judgemental honest but not scary answers about life, people and God, without having time to run to a parenting book or the internet for the received wisdom.

For example this morning’s questions have included “What is the sound barrier? “Is God a boy or a girl?” and “Where do squirrels sleep?” (Answers in my comments box please)

Fat is not an issue I ever anticipated discussing with my three-year-old son, assuming that boys were all about what they can see and do rather than what they are.

In fact one of the reasons I was banking on Snooks being a boy (though weirdly I used to dream he was a girl in utero) was that I felt ill-equipped to deal with the fiercely messy issue of girls and body image. Little did I know that it starts at three and a bit.

I accidentally set the ball rolling a few nights ago when the Engineer and I were enjoying a gloat at some video footage of ourselves on a family holiday in Scotland in 2010 when we were collectively seven stone heavier than we are now.

“Oh my word look how I fat I am,” I said, hardly recognising myself as the lumbering matron holding tiny Snooks’ hand on the station platform. I could see my awkward discomfort as I walked, knowing I was being filmed. I remember trying to stand straight.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not a fat-Nazi who put on a few pounds and having shed it, lives on a diet of mashed wheat and cabbage water. I have always been, and still am - and I love this fantastic euphemism – well covered.

But the Engineer and I, stunned by the emotional assault of early parenthood, ate our way through the first two years of Snook’s life, without stopping for breath.

Consequently we were a bit fat a couple of years ago. It’s no biggie. I don’t see any reason to beat about the bush. It’s not a crime or a signal of mental or moral collapse. Just hard work to lose.

So although I would rather not have launched the subject of body comparisons with Snookie just yet, I have always tried to be honest and realistic with him. And the truth is, if you eat too much, you get fat.

This has not, I should stress, ever been a problem for Snooks. In fact, as you may have gathered, eating for him is one almighty chore, endured only to keep the oldies happy. If food could be pumped in like fuel at a pit stop without interrupting the race, he would be happy. (Don’t worry, we have worked that analogy to death. Thank goodness we don’t have more children or the whole race-track/dining room thing would be a lot more complicated.) So I don’t want to give him any reason to reject food more than he already does. I was surprised at how quickly he picked up on the f-word and wanted to use it and discuss it, everywhere.

It first took me by surprise when he came into our bedroom as I was getting dressed a few days later.

“You look a bit fat mum,” he said, matter of factly.

I could not help the shock my face betrayed followed by an embarrassed laugh. What can you say?

“… when you’re in Scotland, I mean,” he continued, clearly reading my reaction, or perhaps just clarifying.

He had learned what the f-word did to people.

We sat down on the bed and talked.

"First of all", I said, "children are never fat." Right, I know this speaks a bit against the desperate drive to educate children about healthy food choices in the face of the giant obesity time bomb in this country. You see. I told you. How am I supposed to know what to say? But I just don’t think children, as in primary school age children, should be watching their weight.

Then I said that saying someone is fat might hurt their feelings, even if it is true. This was to an attempt to head off all the mortification I could see ahead if Snooks thought it was ok to go around pointing out fat people. At the moment he has a thing for dragging me across the street to point out people who “look like Daddy”, which is anyone, male or female, with grey hair.

"However", I added, "it is ok to tell me that I look fat, if you think I do." (There’s your balance, right there.) Some people might be upset by being called fat, but me, hey, I am cool with it. Look here’s my big tummy. Isn’t it nice and squishy?

Just don’t anyone else try it.

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