“That’s a big baby!” “He’s never missed a meal!” “What are you feeding him?” “What a bruiser!”
These are just some of the many comments I have heard from strangers, family members, acquaintances, and even a doctor, about my 18-month old son. I have always felt that an individual’s weight is a personal health issue, and is none of my business. It is generally understood in American society that it is rude to comment on a person’s weight. However, there doesn’t seem to be the same taboo when it comes to small children. These comments come from well meaning people who find “chubby” babies, “husky” toddlers and “plump” preschoolers adorable, and are certainly not meant to offend. Yet these comments tend to get under my skin.
I’m not too worried that my 18-month old will pick up on harmful messages about weight just yet, but I am fully aware that my 3 ½ year old notices these comments, and doesn’t quite know what to make of them. She has begun asking many questions about weight that I’d rather not have to address at such an early age.
I thought that at least for the next few years that the best way to deal with the weight issue was to ignore it. I try never to let my kids hear me make a disparaging remark about my own body (or anyone else’s). My hope is that weight will be a non-issue. When my husband and I talk about avoiding sweets, or eating veggies, we emphasize wanting to stay healthy, not thin. When we indulge in junk food, we don’t show regret.
But, with little or no control over the messages she receives from other children and adults (or the Disney Princesses, for that matter, but that’s a topic for another blog), I am concerned.
She notices differences in body shapes. She recently told me that I look different from a friend’s mother. “How so?” I asked. “She has more bones,” I was told. Listening to her talk a bit more, I came to understand this to mean that she is very thin. So, I replied with something like: “Well, yes, people come in all different sizes and have different looking features. You may have noticed that she is also taller, and that she has brown hair…”.
This type of conversation is reassuring, because I feel I can help shape the way she feels about the fact that individuals are unique in many ways, and can help her value our differences. They say variety is the spice of life. When my daughter reaches an age where she can articulate that message, I hope she does.