Last night as I was tucking Daniel into bed, he told me he wanted to see how fat I was. I stood up because I wasn’t really sure where he was going with this, and he giggled and said, “you’re fat” and started patting my stomach. I told him that wasn’t nice to say and left the room.
I was crushed. But even more than the hurt and embarrassment I felt was my curiosity about what prompted that exchange. We are diligent about not talking about weight or body issues around him but maybe we aren’t as diligent as we thought. Was it something from school? “Fat” was one of his spelling words a few weeks ago.
It’s likely that he doesn’t really understand what he said and why it was hurtful. Now to figure out how to talk about it. My mother laments that once your child starts school, “they’re never really yours again,” a statement that is actually kind of horrible, but maybe it contains a grain of truth: the more they experience of the world, the less control you have; from that point on you are fighting to fit in these new experiences with your family’s value system and world view. And ours definitely does not include calling people fat!
Ouch 😦 We’ve been hearing the word “stupid” a lot around here, but that was TV’s fault (aka our fault).
God, I’m sorry. I would be crushed too.
This, right here, is why I decided to get back to my old self again. I knew that comments like this could be coming, and I, personally, can’t take them. I did it in the nick of time too… Matthew noticed a pregnant belly for the first time as being big and said, very loudly and with much gusto, “look! BIG belly!”.
School ruins their unbiased hearts.
I think its unfair to completely blame school. I think as kids grow up, their sphere of influence grows, and they notice and want to imitate what their peers or elders are doing (not just mom & dad). My kids have been in daycare since infancy. They have a learned a few words and phrases that we don’t use in our home:
“fat”—from one of the original (circa-1950) Curious George books
“butt”—from my niece and nephew because my sister and BIL use that word instead of “bottom” like we do
“poopy head”—from friends’ kids who in turn learned it from their neighbors (they aren’t in school)
“I HATE xyz, including I hate you”—probably from school
“shit”—from me (hangs head in shame)
Of course, they test the words out. And the reaction they get influences how often they will continue to say it. The more we insisted that “stupid” was not a word we used, the more it was thrown around. I’ve tried to ignore some of the others, and they lose their appeal quickly. Except, apparently, poopy head, which is hilarious to pre-school boys.
I wonder what his definition of fat is. For you (and probably all adults) it’s an unkind word. But was fat presented as something cute? Baby fat? Did he think he was giving you a compliment? Just using a vocabulary word and showing off that he knew how to use a word correctly? It’s so hard to know.
I don’t think it’s school, per se. Because even children who never attend school start soaking in messages from the world around them. All I can say is that parenting is difficult; shaping another human being is really hard.
Obviously I’m commenting with quite a delay, but I really like what Mel says about how the word is being used. Here in Spain people use “fat” as a loving word when describing babies and little kids. It’s hard to react to that without the aversion normal in an adult (woman, no less), and I admit to being alarmed the first (dozen) times Andy was called, “gordito.” But then I realized where it was coming from and what they meant by it. Anyway, it’s a different situation than yours, but I do think it’s possible Daniel didn’t mean it in an insulting way.
Since I’m commenting so late, I’ll ask: did you talk to him about it? Has he used it since?
Ouch! 😕 we’ve been getting served with ‘You’re a meany!’ A whole lot lately. Can’t wait for the next round. Ugh.
It’s true that once they are out in the world (and for most kids where they are out in the world is school) we can’t control what they come in contact with. But they are still ours because we can help them to use the new words and ideas they learn in the ways we deem appropriate. When my daughter comes home with an idea or word we didn’t teach her I try to think of it as a learning opportunity. I don’t always want to have those hard conversations, but they are so important. I hope you figure out how to deal with this thorny issue in a way that feels productive for you. Good luck!
Sam said the same thing to me last year. I reminded him that God made us in all different shapes and sizes. He has since told me that I need to eat less and exercise more. Though he didn’t call me fat. And, trust me, hearing your 6 year old telling you that you need to eat less and exercise more is just as hurtful as him calling you “fat.”
I think that he hears this stuff everywhere, not just school, from tv, to his teenage sister, to, truth be told, me when I don’t eat dessert because I’m trying to lose weight.
We’ve recently be dealing with how our family values don’t always match up with others thanks to the school’s decision to present information to my 6 year old about cub scouts. We had to explain to him that we don’t want him to be a part of an organization that doesn’t allow homosexual leaders because our family doesn’t believe in leaving people out because of who they love. It was tough. He doesn’t really understand and thinks we’re keeping him from doing fun stuff. Argh…