Thursday, February 14, 2013

Home Alone

Home alone. Lately it seems to be the story of my life.

Having a husband who travels frequently for his job has its pros and cons. Mostly I’m thinking cons. When the kids were young, it was tough because all the diaper changing and long nights fell to me. The unrelenting toddler talk and constant baby carrying simply wore me out, body and soul. These days the children are big enough to bathe themselves (but apparently not big enough to pick up their wet towels or carry their dirty clothes to a hamper), yet the exhaustion can still be overwhelming. I’m the only one who can help with homework, wash the pans, chase down the errant dog, or locate the form that was supposed to have been signed yesterday. No one but me can be trusted to lock the doors, turn off the lights, and throw the cat out at night. The game pieces, dog toys, and snack leftovers will lie where they are on the living room carpet until I pick them up. No one else feels responsible for their whereabouts.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"Fat": A Lifelong Label

The school sent home their BMI reports last week. These reports inform parents of their child’s weight, height, and body mass index. They also let us know where our kids fall on the scale of underweight to obese. I’m assuming they also share this information with the government and that’s how states track their childhood obesity rates.

When I was a kid, schools did something similar although BMI had not been created. They did make us line up in the nurse’s office to be measured and then checked our spines to make sure they were straight. I hated this day. Well, actually that day never registered on my radar until after third grade. Third grade was the year the doctor informed me that I was fat. It was the year my mother started watching what I ate. It was the year that food became an obsession. Prior to that, I didn’t have any real memory of what I ate or whether it mattered.

When I look back on my childhood pictures, I did start to look a little chubby around third grade. But I wonder now, if that isn’t normal. Kids seem to begin to grow wider faster than they grow taller in the years before puberty. I have to wonder whether my doctor did me a disservice by labeling me. I wonder if I had been allowed to continue on my course, if my weight wouldn’t have just leveled out on its own.

Instead, his pronouncement set me on course for a life time of dieting and obsessive exercising, interspersed with periods of weight gain in which I would throw in the towel and remind myself that I’ve always been fat. More than that it gave me a new picture of myself: I was fat and therefore according to our culture I was unattractive. That fact colored my adolescence and undermined my confidence. These days my weight falls in the top of the healthy weight on the BMI index, but that number does nothing for my mental and emotional assumptions. I still feel fat. I think I probably always will.