People all the use the “F word” differently around children. Since I’ve worked with probably over 200 young children now, I know directly the impact the “F word” has on them. I’m probably too over-protective of the word as I go so far that I switch out the words in children’s songs and stories that use it. However, every family is different and people can make the choice to include it in their daily vocabulary if they want to. It is just a word, right?
I had a moment tonight regarding the “F word” while working with two of the most special people in the world to me, a girl who turns 6 in three weeks and a boy who recently turned 3. I’ve been babysitting for this family since the little girl was just nine months old and one of the best parts of my life has been watching these children grow up.
It was bedtime and the kids were rambunctious and rolling around on the ground, begging to play their favorite bedtime game. We call it “abalone” and they curl up into balls and I pretend to pry off them off the rock before baking them in the oven (a big reclining rocking chair) and nibbling at their toes after they’re baked. Well, tonight I laid down for a change and the kids dog piled on top of me with my annoying low cut jeans and “normal length but too short for a tall girl” shirt both separating on me just like my abalone shell was being shucked apart. I immediately became so AWARE that my belly was hanging out that it became my top priority to get back up, pull my pants up and my shirt down and proceed with my mission of getting their teeth brushed. I remember thinking as it was happening, “THEY ARE SEEING MY FAT! NOOOO! WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?!” and having this frantic moment of body shame as the kids played on, their smiles brighter than the sparkle of any abalone in the world. These kids weren’t thinking about the fat on my stomach. They were in play mode, happily living their lives as WE ALL should, unaware of judgement placed on our bodies.
I didn’t have the realization of what that moment all meant to me until I was driving home soon after. I was so happy the way the moment went over. Sure, it sucked that I had a freak-out of body shame, but the fact that the kids SAW my stomach and didn’t say anything made me feel so much better. They didn’t use the “F word.” They didn’t call me fat.
I think I have a lot of body shame around children because, just out of a child’s simple curiosity, I’ve been asked about my weight many times before. The most common is a child asking if I have a baby in my tummy, likely because they’ve seen other women who DO have tummies similar to mine. When it first started happening at the beginning of my preschool career, at age 19, I didn’t know what to say to that. Now I’ll just say, “No, my tummy is just squishy.” Kids will ask, “April, why is your tummy so fat?” and I’ll make a joke about eating too much soft ice cream. It doesn’t effect me now nearly as much as it used to now that I’ve worked with kids long enough to know that sometimes, questions that hurt really are just questions of wonder.
But then at the some point soon after those innocent years of toddler time, their perspective on the word fat changes completely. The word fat transforms from a curiosity of different types bodies to a sharp dagger that can be used at any moment on themselves or other people. Unfortunately once a kid has a grip on using the word fat, it’s hard to drop that habit and the image of what fat is to a child may be something that carries on with them into adulthood.
In a place where fat is all around us, how can we even control the word from changing from simple adjective into the piercing dagger it is known as today?
Is there anything that you do to try to promote better body image to the children that may be around you? Do you think that as obesity becomes more common in the USA, the way we use the word fat will change?
Besides those DEEP THOUGHTS, today marks the one week of my weight-watchers week! I weighed in this morning with a loss of 3.8! Yeah!!!! This next week I’ll work on improving my habits even more, as this past week I still struggled with my desire for liquid sugar. My buddy Laura, the woman doing it with me, lost eleven pounds! I’ll share how we did it in a post early next week!
Until then, happy Friday, everyone!