F-A-T. . .
Boy, did we ever stir it up with last month’s post about whether or not it was okay for the word “fat” to be included in a preschool lesson. (See all the blog comments and Facebook discussion.) Some said First-Time Mommy was right to be concerned, others said she was being overly sensitive and even censoring her kid.
Whatever your take on the matter, I think we can all agree that we live in a weight-obsessed culture, one where “fat” people get treated differently than thin ones. Kids—even ones as young as three- and four-year-olds—can already understand the pejorative connotations of this other F word. Even if they aren’t quite sure what “fat” means, they know it’s bad.
As someone who grew up close to someone with an eating disorder, I don’t want my daughters suffering the same fate. I watched a young woman waste away, riddled with self-hatred and a totally distorted view of her body that took years of therapy to heal. And I don’t want your sons or daughters or friends or anyone for that matter to have to go through that sh*t. But the message to be impossibly thin is all around them—and being fat, in our culture, means an association with being lazy or even evil.
Here’s a general rule I’ve learned the hard way to use around my kids: Don’t say anything around them you don’t want them to repeat. Because children are whip-smart, they hear everything, and are really good at whipping out the perfect word at the perfect moment for maximum parental embarrassment. And it’s not the curse words I’ve uttered that I’m ashamed of—it’s the time I asked my husband if a pair of jeans I had on made me look fat. My four-year-old was in the room and though I haven’t seen evidence of damage done (she hasn’t repeated the word in a degrading way), every time I think about it I wince. Because not only was it a total parental fail in promoting a healthy body image, it also contradicts everything I believe in, which is to treat people (including yourself!) respectfully. I used a word in a way that I definitely don’t want her to repeat.
Until we can stop putting a moral value on obesity and using the word “fat” to degrade and diminish people, I’m going to watch how the F word gets used in my house. That means first off censoring my own damn mouth—and then secondly, patrolling its use in books, movies, and magazines (just as I skip over the words “stupid,” “ugly,” and “hate” in stories, I’m skipping over “fat” unless it refers to cutting meat).
Words have power. As a parent, it’s my job to use them in a manner that empowers my kids and to teach them to love bodies of any shape and size. That means being careful—and sensitive—about the use of the F word. It’s not being oversensitive; it’s doing what we can to counter the way words are used to damage us.
For more from Andrea, click HERE.