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Super Powers —

April 9, 2013

When you were 10 years old, what were you good at? Personally, I had a great imagination. At 10, I knew I was becoming too old to play pretend any more, or at least that others thought I should be beyond that phase. But I would still go to the park and play for hours on the decommissioned tank, pretending I was fighting off dozens of invading Russians.

In fifth grade, I began to explore a new outlet for my creativity: writing. While being a nosy little brother, I found a manila folder in my oldest brother’s room labeled “Top Secret.” It was a story about how he and his friends fought back against an invading horde of Russians who attacked our school. I was floored: you mean you can just make up a story all by yourself and write it down?

I had to try.

So, I wrote my own story about me and my friends fighting back against an invading horde of Russians who were attacking our school (are you sensing a pattern yet?). With my teacher’s permission, I read it aloud to the class. When I went to sixth grade, I began writing longer stories with chapters, and my teacher, Mrs. Baker, let me read out loud them after lunch. There was one about time traveling that included a visit to the old west and another where we fought back against an invading horde… you get the idea.

From that point forward, I took great pride in being a writer and if you asked me what I was good at, writing would be near the top of my list, along with being funny and generous. What about you? When you were 10 years old, what would you have said you were good at?

The reason I ask is that the other night I was at my daughter’s school for a meeting about an upcoming field day at which I’m volunteering. My wife and two daughters were there as well, and it all went smoothly until my youngest, Lottie (4), got a wild hair up her butt and started getting mad at Linny (6) for drawing on her paper.

I took my inconsolable daughter into the hall so as not to disrupt the planning meeting. She then switched from being mad at Linny about the picture to being mad at me for taking her into the hall, but that’s par for course in parenting. So I’m giving her space to cool off and I’m looking at some of the homework assignments that are hung on the wall.

One was an “All About Me” questionnaire which had the kids fill in the blanks of phrases like “Something I really like to do is…” and “The thing I like best about school is…” The answers were all exactly what you’d expect to see from a bunch of 10-year-olds. And then I saw one that should have surprised me, but didn’t.

Not Getting Fat

In case you can’t read it, beside the phrase “Something I do well is…” the young girl wrote, “Art and I’m good at spelling and science and watching TV. Also eating food and not getting fat.” [emphasis mine]

At this point, an old Sesame Street song rolls into my mind:

Obviously our family is very size friendly and we focus on the ability of our bodies and not on how they look. Even so, Linny still comes home talking about how she’s skinny and her sister is not, or she makes a comment about how one of her classmates is skinny or fat. And when she does, we simply remind her that it’s rude to talk about other people’s bodies and move on. We don’t want to dwell on it, but we don’t allow it to continue either. Occasionally we talk about how even though Linny and Lottie eat the same foods and play just as hard as each other, their bodies look differently and that’s okay.

But as much positive influence as we try to have over our Linny’s body image, the creeping body shame is still there, and I can sometimes see it gnawing at her. She knows there is some significance to her being thin, that she possesses a body that is seen as good and healthy and acceptable, while Lottie’s body is open to criticism because she’s not as thin. It’s there. There’s nothing we can do about it.

My only hope is that we can continue to teach both Linny and Lottie that their bodies are good regardless of what they look like, and that both of their bodies are capable of amazing and beautiful and wonderful things, as well as the importance of taking care of your body.

I’m terrified of what the coming years hold for them, particularly Lottie who may endure more criticism than her sister. But my hope is that when Linny gets to fifth grade, she won’t see having a thin body as something that she “does well” or that Lottie won’t see having a heavier body as something that she “does badly.” They have far greater talents and far better gifts than their genetic inheritance, and no matter what their bodies look like, they can, and should, be proud of themselves.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. April 9, 2013 12:19 pm

    I’m really good at eating food and getting fat. What do I win?

    • April 9, 2013 12:25 pm

      I have consulted the Handbook on Eating and Bodies written by Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign and it has referred me to the following:

      Peace,
      Shannon

      • Fab@54 permalink
        April 10, 2013 7:44 am

        ::: laughs!::: Perfect!

  2. Calantheliadon permalink
    April 9, 2013 6:05 pm

    Your children are very lucky to have the parents they do!

  3. violetyoshi permalink
    April 9, 2013 9:29 pm

    You’re doing a great job at trying to handle this with your kids. I wish more people were made aware of how The War on Fat People is stealing away childhoods.

  4. Fab@54 permalink
    April 10, 2013 8:00 am

    I can totally relate to this, Shannon…. I have two daughters; one always on the thin side, one always a bit ‘bigger’ than the thinner one. Both raised the same, both cherished the same, both smart, talented, outgoing and interesting.
    Now they are well into adulthood, and my thinner daughter is still considered thin-to-average, while my other daughter has inherited (my) thyroid issues and has only gotten bigger. Thinner daughter eats a diet that could be improved by leaps and bounds; larger daughter eats much healthier than anyone else in the family, and yet…..
    They are both beautiful women, really, that’s not just a mother talking, they’re both beautiful. However, I still catch myself thinking now and then – not often- just now and then, that if my daughter could lose “just 50 lbs” she’d be so much happier with herself, and she could escape so much BS and scrutiny from others.

    Even though those words flash in my head, they have never EVER left my lips. But it’s so telling that the thoughts are there in the first place, isn’t it?
    No matter how hard we try, that conditioning against “being fat! Oh my god anything but fat!” is ingrained very deeply.
    I wonder, Shannon… do you ever catch thoughts like this going through your mind about your daughter/s? Or are you beyond that and in a place I can still strive to be? 🙂

  5. April 12, 2013 9:57 am

    I was good at writing when I was ten. I was also good at eating food and not getting fat. Well, the second one didn’t last, and the first one is kind of subjective.

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