My children were in the dining room, taking a small break from annoying each other to eat their respective dinners. My son was eating some baby carrots. My daughter was eating some Greek yogurt with almonds and dark chocolate mixed in. I was in the kitchen trying to figure out what I wanted for dinner when I heard Miles, his voice dripping with distain, say to Ev, “You know that chocolate has lots of calories, sugar, and carbs, right?”
He’s only 9 but the mansplaining is strong with this one. #Blessed
I popped my head out of the kitchen and cheerfully chirped “Yep, and remember our bodies need carbs, calories, and even some sugar.”
Ev, who is only 5, nodded vigorously and added “Yeah, and we need fat too!”
I assured her that she was right and went back to the kitchen. When I came out with their drinks, Miles was standing so he could show Ev that his belly was flatter than hers, that he was skinnier. My girl, my strong and solid girl, pulled up her shirt and tried to suck in her belly, tried to shrink her self. I told him to sit down. I told her that she was healthy and strong and had a great belly.
They went back to eating and I went back to the kitchen and tried not to freak out. I tried not to think about how much I hated being bigger than my skinny sibling. I tried not to think about all the times I’ve been self-conscious about what I eat and who I ate it in front of. I tried not to think about making myself throw up chocolate ice cream when I was 10 because I didn’t know how to not eat it in the first place. I threw it up because I wanted, even then, to be thin more than anything… but I still wanted that ice cream. I tried not to remember sneaking forbidden foods and eating in secret.
Good god, I have wasted so much time thinking about my weight.
The carb and calories talk comes from school. We don’t talk about food that way in our house. I’ve worked hard not to assign morality to food. We’re not “being bad” when we have dessert. We aren’t “being good” when we have a salad. We don’t have rules about having to clear our plates. There aren’t really foods that are off limits. I’m pro snacks, pro vegetables, pro pizza and popcorn for dinner on Friday nights. Mostly, I think our approach to food is working. The kids are both healthy and they both still have Halloween candy left over from last year in the cupboard. They don’t binge. They seem to be able to self-regulate and to stop eating when they get full. They like treats but don’t go crazy about it.
I’m not quite there myself, but I’m better than I used to be.
I’ve never said anything negative about my (fat, round, strong, sometimes frustrating) body in front of Ev. I want to save her from the years I’ve spent hating myself. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing the right stuff in this respect. A lot of time it feels like I’m just winging it. I’m nervous about her being in school, where apparently calories and carbs are a part of the curriculum. I wonder when kids start using fat as an insult? I wonder when she’ll hear it used against her? I’m damn sure that I don’t want it ever used against her in this house, especially not by the brother that she worships.
After dinner, I put Ev in the tub and sat Miles down for what I suspect is the first of many conversations we’ll have about stuff like this. I told him to stop talking about what Ev eats, to not make being skinnier a subject for competition, and to make sure that he wasn’t ever commenting on anyone’s size or shape. I told him that I used to cry almost every day because I was worried I wasn’t skinny enough. He patted me on the arm but didn’t say anything. I don’t know if it sunk in or if he understands. I think he both believes that being skinny is better than being fat and that he loves to snuggle with his fat mom and doesn’t want me to be sad about my weight.
I let him get off the couch and he disappeared into the kitchen, saying “I’m going to bring you something special!”
He came back with a box of Junior Mints. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
I really, really hope I don’t screw this part up.