Hi all. Sorry I haven't been around in a while. It was a long hot summer. I can't believe it's almost Halloween, my favorite holiday of the year.
Speaking of scary, a while back my 5-year-old, who was then 4 or maybe 3, points to a guy out in public somewhere and says pretty loudly, "FAT!"
I know, what parent hasn't had this experience or one like it, right? I wanted to shrivel up and disappear under my hat like the Wicked Witch of the West. (See how I'm continuing the Halloween theme?)
Anyway my very socially cool way of handling this was to clap an open hand over the kid's mouth and say, "SSSSHHHH!" in a stage whisper well within earshot of the guy and then hustle the kid away to give him an obvious-looking lecture while shooting apologetic looks at the fat guy. Who was completely ignoring me. So ... yeah. Cool under pressure.
What still bugs me about this, well over a year later now, is not just my stupid deer-in-headlights reaction but, way more than that, the whole subtext that it's shameful to be fat. If he'd pointed at a girl and said, "Pretty!" or a guy with tattoos and said, "Tattoos!", I would have probably just agreed. Hell, he's even pointed out people in wheel chairs and I just said, "Yeah, some people need to use a chair with wheels to get around." "Why?" "Because their legs don't work to walk." "Oh." When he was real little he even bonded with a couple ladies in wheelchairs with, "We both ride in chairs!" They were mostly just charmed. No harm no foul and all that.
But for some reason I didn't want the fat guy to feel bad for the fact that a preschooler noticed he was fat. However: A) I'm fairly sure the guy already knew he was fat. B) Maybe he didn't feel bad in general about being fat, much less about my kid pointing it out. So, C) Was my totally awkward reaction the only insult the guy got from us, since my kid was just being honest and saying what he saw, whereas I was showing my unfortunate but culturally ingrained bias against fat people?
Also, if my kid ends up fat or chubby for whatever reason, I don't want him to be ashamed of his body. So obviously my response wasn't great on that score either because basically what I told him is that he probably made the guy feel bad and we don't point out things about each other's bodies to them, especially things like being fat. So right there, again, you have the message that fat = shame.
I wish I could find the guy again and ask him what that episode was like for him. I wonder if my kid's the only one who's ever done that to him, and if not, what he thinks or feels when it happens. Mostly though I wonder what the supposed other parents did when it happened. Because I'm positive it was classier than my reaction.
What do you do in situations like this? Do you apologize or say something to the person? How do you talk to your kids about body size without shame or fear?