Kids and the “F word”

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!

Love,

AprilSignatur

Midwestern Magic, Part 2

Grandma and I

After leaving the Wisconsin Dells, we arrived in Maplewood, MN around 5 pm – perfect time for a barbeque! It was great seeing my aunts, uncles and cousins – and my sweet grandmother, who’s turning 90 in a few weeks but still has a razor-sharp wit. My dad was grilling up salmon burgers and cranberry walnut bratwurst, and the table was heaping with apple ambrosia dip, roasted potatoes, smoked salmon and three types of pie. We ate and then sat around being merry – here’s proof.

Some of you reading this blog know that I’m a big klutz – and if you don’t, well, you do now. As I oohed and ahhed over the beautiful handcrafted doll house at my grandmother’s house, somehow my big old booty bumped into a little TV tray and sent diet coke splashing everywhere. Thankfully everyone was cool about it and helped me blot at the carpet, but how embarrassing! My butt apparently has a mind of its own – thank god it doesn’t have its own zip code. (Just a few days later my butt took down a plate of grilled cheese. I guess my butt is striking back for being sat upon all these years.)

Top the Tater

After the BBQ, I had a strange craving… for TOP THE TATER! You folks in the Midwest might know what this is – a sour cream dip filled with chives and other herbal seasonings. My cousin Sarah bought some once with Old Dutch potato chips (locally made in Minnesota) and I was hooked by the salty, creamy combination. I figured… when in Minnesota, do as the Minnesotans do – so I splurged at 11 pm (come on now, only 9 pm Cali time) and bought some Old Dutch and Top the Tater to eat in solitary bliss in my hotel room. Yeah, yeah – bad weight loss blogger (HONEST weight loss blogger!).

A classic photo I found in my Grandma's album - hopefully this is the ONLY topless picture of me on the internet!

The next day we spent at my Grandma’s house catching up, looking at old photos and helping her with some household stuff – I learned how to properly wash windows. Did you know that the correct way to wash windows is to wipe downwards on one side, and then wipe horizontally on the other? No streaks! We relaxed over lunch and told old stories – and then we were back in the car with my dad, heading to Chicago to see my cousin Becky get married! Come back Monday to read about her awesome and unusual midnight wedding snack!

Midwestern State of Mind

Little me creeping up stairs

I came screaming into this world in Naperville, Illinois, which was at the time, a small suburb of Chicago for new families and new shopping malls. (Fun fact: It’s now so yuppy people call it “Diaperville”) My mom was a native Michigander and my dad was a native Minnesotan, and together, they made a Midwestern hybrid baby that would be raised with good Midwestern values and three square meals of meat and potatoes. In the Midwest, “vegetables” are potatoes, iceberg lettuce, carrots and canned olives. When my cousins come to visit us in California, their noses turn up at the “grass” that is served as a salad – leafy arugula, green spinach, declicate baby greens. In the Midwest, gravy is a beverage. Oil is a condiment. Butter is a must.

I’m sure parts of the Midwest are different, but where I was raised, cheese in a can was a perfectly acceptable counterpart to crackers. “Salads” were rarely made of vegetables. Like what, you say? Potato Salad. Pasta Salad. Jello Salad. Taco Salad. Egg Salad. Chicken Salad.  Things like London Broil or Tri-Tip or Alfalfa Sprouts were unheard of. In fact, I never tried an artichoke, avocado, or soy milk until I moved to California.

Awkard chunky pre-teen phase. But I always was an LA girl!

It’s no laughing matter, but in both sides of my family, more of us fit into the lumpy category than we do lean. Would it be different if we had been raised in mountainous Colorado, or sunny Florida? (Florida: Probably not. Pretty sure funnel cakes, pulled pork and Cuban sandwiches do not a skinny person make.) Does the region you live in affect your tendency towards a certain body mass? I know I can’t blame my obesity on all the times I ate ice cream instead of fruit, but I have to wonder if my corn and grain-fed habits translated to a paunchier person.

One of the few years of my life where I had a normal BMI... I was 2.

I get grumpy sometimes when I compare my present eating habits to some slender folk around me. I cook rustic, wholesome meals with things grown from my garden. I mostly eat meals based on a lean protein, green and one starch every night. I try my best to stay away from processed foods and I exercise. I’ve made bad choices in the past and let’s be honest, will probably continue to do so, but the slightest bit of me loves blaming it all on genetics. In all fairness, I identify that I can’t blame the region – but I can blame the habits.

Did the region you grew up in contribute to your eating and food habits? How? If it was negative, how are you working to change them?

 

At least I’m not fat

I wasn’t always overweight – I arrived into this world at an average 7 pounds, 4 ounces or something like that. Through out my childhood I sported plump, apple cheeks, but didn’t tilt the scales until about the age of 10, around when my family moved to California. I remember wearing the girl’s size XL, and an unpleasant discussion at the doctor’s office about being overweight. “She needs to exercise,” the doctor had said, noting my ever-climbing weight. My mom replied, no doubt in protection, “She doesn’t love sports, but she does love to read.” I’ll never forget the doctor’s reply – “Reading is great exercise for the brain – but not the body!”

Age four - no chub yet!

As puberty crept up on me, my weight blossomed even more, morphing into fleshy hips and a soft, pudgy tummy. I was outgrowing the junior’s size 12s, having to squeeze my curvy waist into cheap L.E.I. jeans in women’s size 13s from Mervyns. My first devastating insult about my weight came from a boy I had a huge crush on, Patrick. We were friends and classmates and walked home from school together, crunching leaves and sucking the sap out of honeysuckles. He called me “Hey Arnold” after the cartoon, because we both had blonde hair. He was really tall and gangly, with small, narrow eyes and a deep, nerdy voice. In gym class one day we had to run a mile. As a fumbling klutz, running was something I despised, a special torture for a chubby girl with a propensity for words. I can even remember my outfit that day  -a purple Guess shirt and white cotton shorts.  As we lapped the dirt track together, he taunted me that he would win.  Adrenaline and ambition kicked in, and by some miracle, I propelled myself past him through the finish line, the victorious winner by a few seconds. As I applauded my own girls-against -boy victory, he hit me where he knew it would hurt – my emotions.

“Well – at least I’m not FAT!” he spat out, the friendly look in his eye replaced with macho venom.

Had I been the spunky girl I would have liked to imagine myself as, I would have replied, “Well – at least I’m not an ASSHOLE!” but instead, I slunk off like a guilty dog, reminded that once again, it didn’t matter what girls accomplished, but rather, what they looked like. I never wore those white shorts to school again. (He’s dead now, how’s that for Karma? I kid, I kid. Sadly, he is deceased of a drug overdose, which is a shame because despite this little sting, he was a nice, intelligent kid)

It’s so easy to remember the insults and the bad things that happen to you, even when you hear a lot of praise otherwise. I’d like to say comments like these didn’t affect me, but I guess they did if I’m blogging about them 14 years later – but hey, it fueled a blog post, so I guess that’s something.

Do you remember insults about your looks from days past? One of the worst I’ve ever heard is a guy who called my sister “Princess Fat Arms”. WTF! People can be so cruel.