Last week Miss B used the f-word.
No, no... Not that f-word. The other f-word. The f-word I never want to hear from either of my girls: FAT.
Cyberspace allows us a certain level of anonymity. If you've never met me, you probably never gave much thought to what I look like. Before I had kids I was tall and slender. While I am still tall, I'm not exactly slender. I think I have a pretty average build (thanks in part to my height). I have wanted to lose some weight and eat healthier, but I have always been careful how I talk about this around my girls. I never talk about being fat or big. We don't call people fat.
So when my firstborn child came into my room in tears and proclaimed, "I'm fat!" My heart both broke and stopped.
I tried not to overreact. The first words out of my mouth were, "You are not fat!" Then I asked, "What's going on? Why do you say that?"
"These pants won't fit! They won't even zip!" Her school uniform pants clung guiltily to her frame.
I must admit that Miss B has filled out a bit this summer. Her appetite has picked up. Her face is rounder and her body, while still young, is showing signs of maturity (that's discreet speak for "she's getting a chest"). I have watched these changes with relative dismay. Where's my baby going? And why must her replacement have an attitude? I would not be surprised if Miss B suddenly shot up a few inches.
So the reality is that she is bigger around the waist than she is used to being. But even if she were truly overweight, I never want to hear my young daughter reduce herself to a one-word definition involving her size. I never want to hear my daughter do this, regardless of her age.
But I digress...
"What size are those pants?" I ask after following her to her room.
"10. Those others are 10's too. They don't fit either."
Sigh. "Honey, you don't wear a size 10. You wear a 12. You've worn 12's all summer. Remember when I told you to go through your uniforms to take out the stuff that didn't fit? I asked you to try things on and weed out the stuff that's too small. You haven't grown that much in the last month. You must have missed these."
Miss B was greatly relieved. So was I.
I made sure to follow up, treading lightly all the while.
"So Honey, you certainly are not fat. If you are concerned about how your correctly sized clothes fit or about your energy level, then we can try to make some healthier choices. Like maybe your first choice after school shouldn't be watching TV. And maybe you don't sneak snacks* that you think no one will see. We can all do better and then we'll all feel better and have more energy."
I think she felt better. I'm now convinced that she doesn't really think she's fat. I don't want to delude her by any means. If she really needed to lose weight, I wouldn't tell her everything was fine and offer her a cookie (to make her feel better). But if that were the case, I don't think that telling her she's fat would be the way to help. I have to take responsibility. I buy the food. I cook the meals. I try to walk a fine line between having some treats on hand and not having too much temptation. I worry about my caloric intake, but I make sure I don't mention it. I will say that something is "bad for you," but I always try to relate it to health not size.
And folks, Miss B is only 8. 8!! I had hoped that this wouldn't be an issue at all (and if it was it would be a lot later). I don't remember this kind of stuff until I was in 5th or 6th grade. Miss B is in 3rd.
Does this mean I'll qualify for early retirement?
* Miss B was caught sneaking swiss cake rolls last week. These are packaged in pairs, but I separate them to pack in lunches. She ate a whole package and didn't ask first. As we do not starve our children, we do not like for them to sneak food without asking.