I'm distressed because this evening Elizabeth mentioned that she hoped she wasn't going to gain any weight. Context: she outgrew all her pajamas and pants all of a sudden, and she's been extra hungry, so I mentioned that she must be having a growth spurt. She wanted to know what that was, so I told her that children often seem to grow all of a sudden, in bursts. That's when she said she hoped she wouldn't gain any weight.
You are going to have to take my word for it that I don't say negative or positive things about weight where she can hear me. I don't lament the way I look in my clothes. I don't mention gaining or losing weight. I don't verbally admire thin people. I don't call certain pants my "fat pants," or wonder aloud if I look fat/thin in what I'm wearing. I don't talk about foods being fattening, or having a lot of calories, or having fewer calories. I use the word "healthy" to describe health states ("I'm so glad we're all healthy again after that long winter of strep!"), not as a synonym/euphemism for eating less food, eating lower-calorie food, losing weight, or being thin. I don't mention diets, or restricting eating for purposes of weight loss/not-gain, or not eating something because "I shouldn't" or because "it'd go right to my hips." I don't have friends or relatives who come over and do these things. She watches PBS---no teen-girl-type shows.
I exist as a plump person. I don't mention being a plump person, or anything about being a plump person, or anything about what size I am or what size I'd prefer to be. EVER. It's not that I say it only to Paul or to a friend when I hope we're not being overheard, and then perhaps if this were a book we could illustrate this statement with a little sketch of the impressionable young girl listening unnoticed at a doorway; no, I am telling you that I NEVER MENTION IT AT ALL IN ANY CONTEXT WHEN I AM WITHIN A MILE OF HER.
Nevertheless, she is six years old, and she is so far below the average weight for her height that the pediatrician mentions it at each visit, and she doesn't want to gain weight. She's mentioned this a few times recently, but I've ignored it because I didn't want to draw a lot of attention to it---or more truthfully, because I didn't know what to say. This time I asked soooooo casually if the other girls at school talk about gaining weight. She said no. I asked if anyone else had mentioned it. She said no. I asked why she said she didn't want to gain weight, and she laughed nervously and said, well, she meant she didn't want to gain TOO MUCH weight.
I didn't pursue it any further. There isn't any point. It's not as if it's possible to rear a daughter who doesn't understand that this society expects her to be thin. I'd been hoping, though, for a longer time before she understood it.
Gift ideas for an 8-year-old, part 2 of 2 - Last week I talked about the gifts we were getting/considering for Edward, who is turning 8 next month. This week it’s Elizabeth’s turn: not “girl gifts,” ...