The other day Joe said something to the kid and it pinged something in me.
She asked if she could have a doughnut when we stopped for hot chocolate after the Christmas parade (this was not just a Santa Claus parade, there was a girl dressed as Mary riding a donkey in the first group) and he said something about how she had done her gymnastics class that day – we’re on three hours in the gym per week now.
It stopped me in my tracks a little bit when he said it, even though he really didn’t mean anything by it, I’m sure. The kid doesn’t get a lot of treats. We don’t always feed ourselves very well, but she usually gets balanced meals. She’s also unbelievably active. On top of gymnastics she has swimming lessons, and even when she’s not specifically exercising she’s usually moving around. The kid loves being active in a way I wish I did as a child. I have no concerns about her fitness levels at all.
We also have no reason to be concerned about her weight. I thought for a bit she might actually be under weight – which was a very strange experience for me – but the doctor says she’s obviously healthy and active and not to worry.
But the thing is that this kid is growing up in this world and I know what she’s going to face. We’ve put time and effort into making sure she understands how strong she is, how great it is that she loves being active. I have tried very hard not to call her skinny, thin or slim. I use fat as a simple adjective. I am fat, that is not the problem, the problem is that I am unfit at the moment and I want to be more active, even if I stay fat.
Someday in the not too distant future this kid is going to grow hips and breasts and her entire self will change. In my family we are what has been designated as curvy – both the socially acceptable kind and the ‘nice way of saying fat’ kind. She is going to have a defined waist and big hips. She is going to be tall. She will still be able to use her body and her strength, but she won’t ever be an Olympic gymnast. She’s going to be too tall for that gig in within three years, I’d bet money on it.
Tallest female artistic gymnast to ever medal at the Olympics? Svetlana Khorkina, 5’5″.
I, of course, dream that she’ll take up dancing and star on Broadway, but right now she wants to be a chemistry teacher, a baker, a mom, and a ninja warrior.
That’s all great.
What I don’t want her to grow up to be is paranoid about food. I specifically don’t want her to be a grown up who thinks of how much exercise it will take to burn off the calories she’s eating. Food is fuel, yes, but it also tastes good and is one of the great pleasures of life. Dessert is not a reward for an extra 10 minutes on the treadmill, and exercise is not punishment for eating that box of Smarties.
I know that women are often pushed towards this line of thinking, but right now my kid understands that exercise is fun, food is fuel, and treats are okay sometimes but you need to brush your teeth after.