My child knows right from wrong. He has to take responsibility for his actions and suffer the consequences. It’s been a difficult thing to teach him. It’s hard to see your child hurting, no matter what the reason is. But when he does something “bad” and doesn’t realize it because I haven’t taught him, then *I* must take responsibility for his actions. Unfortunately, though, he will still suffer the consequences.
This past winter, nearly every person I know in New England gained weight. It was a very cold, extra snowy season and it was difficult to go outside. Since I had a lot of back pain during that time, too, I only went outside to go to my car. That was it. And because of *that*, I watched my son slowly put on the pounds. When I realized how inactive he truly was (especially on the weekends when we were at home), I tried to actively play with him more like foam sword fighting and dancing in the kitchen. He used the treadmill occasionally, too, while I lifted weights. We have a PlayStation 3 so we also played gladiator and Frisbee golf games on that to move around more.
But it wasn’t enough. I didn’t do those things with him enough. Each time he undressed to take a shower, I completely freaked out inside because I could see how much he had gained. I got so desperate I started having him do jumping jacks before bedtime. I tried to make a game out of it so he wouldn’t realize how crazy and obsessed and upset I had become.
I started reading up on childhood obesity and how to prevent it and how to deal with it if it was already too late. I wasn’t sure how much my boy weighed but I guessed. From every children’s BMI chart I could find, he was in the overweight category. I took a few deep breaths, but tried to come up with a plan to turn things around. Screen time now had to be earned and not automatically given. Pizza night became pizza and salad night. Wednesday became Walking Wednesday (or basketball Wednesday, whichever he wanted to do). I began to feel a bit better. I was trying at least.
To really know what I was dealing with, though, I asked my son to weigh himself. I told him I just wanted to know how much he’d grown before we go see the doctor next month. I held my breath as the scale went up and down.
The number was 10 pounds higher than I originally thought. But I didn’t react in front of him. I smiled and thanked my beautiful boy as he hopped off the scale and scampered to his room.
At that point all I wanted to do was pick up the scale and smash it against the wall, hearing the sound of the plastic cracking to bits. But I didn’t. I just slid it back under my bureau and went back to the BMI charts to get the verdict.
I waited until I got to work to check the charts. I looked at 3 different children’s BMI charts online. They all asked for my son’s age, height and weight. Some of the charts asked for my height and my husband’s height. But each and every result was the same….obese. Not overweight anymore, but obese.
I didn’t just fail but I failed my son. I failed him completely and utterly with a big fat “F.”
When I drove home that night, I was feeling a bit weepy, overwhelmed, defeated really. And yet I had a smidge of hope. I still had some tricks left up my sleeve. Just that morning before I checked the charts, I bought a hula hoop. Something silly but fun that would get all of our bodies moving. When I got home, I told my boy I had a surprise and to meet me out in front of our house. When he came out, I was attempting to swing my hips and keep the hoop moving. (I am *really* bad at it!) It made him laugh and want to try it, too. So he tried it a few times, laughing, then said, “Hey, Mom! Want to play basketball?” I replied with probably an overly enthusiastic “YES” because I was so surprised and happy and ultimately hopeful.
My son knows he should be more active. He knows this because both my husband and I have been encouraging him to do so. I am trying to be a good example of someone who eats well and is physically active, but I also know he needs to see that with other family members. Being a fit family is something I have longed for, but I don’t think it’s realistic. I cannot control other people’s actions, but I can do my damnedest to influence my son’s.
It’s my job to fix this.
I feel good about the little things I’ve put in place, like better snacks and integrating more physical activity at home. Thankfully summer is nearly here, which means a lot of swimming and Frisbee and basketball and maybe even hiking. I know this winter will be a challenge, but for now I need to focus on today.
I am also aware that I can’t obsess about this…too much. Any suggestion of physical activity will meet great resistance if I push this too far. For instance, today is a rainy day and my plans of shooting arrows and playing basketball have fallen by the wayside. Fortunately we still had lightsaber duels and dancing in the kitchen to Cello Wars. But my husband and son also wanted to play a video game together. That is something I will never say “no” to. It may not seem like quality time to some people, but for them it really is. I can hear them playing and they’re laughing and calling each other names (in fun) and having a great time. I had suggested earlier that the two of them take a walk in the rain (they both love this) and I hope they still do that, but for now I have to let it go and hope they make good decisions.
Even though I failed my son, this isn’t over. I can’t let him become a fat teenager, or even a fat middle-schooler. Those years are the most torturous *without* being a big kid. If my boy’s tics continue through that age, he’ll be ostracized just from that. He won’t need one more thing to make him feel like an outcast. In fact, being fat could make him feel invisible, not important, unworthy. And I will not let my child feel that way because *I* didn’t get his ass moving when he was 8 years old.
It’s now time to FIGHT.
Holly, first of all I hate the word fail, because failing means something is done with and wasn’t achieved. He’s still a work in progress and will be for the rest of his life. And don’t forget, he is going to be extremely tall, and unless he’s as wide as he is tall, I think he will lean out as he grows in height as long as he eats balanced meals and not extremely large portions. But as he gets taller he’ll need more calories to fuel moving his tall being around. You’re not failing , you’re learning.
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