Why does my kid keep calling people fat?
When my son was three, on a trip to Seattle, we were at the Olive Garden for lunch. The tables were quite close to each other and he was sitting next to a larger lady.
He tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to her and said “BI-GARM, BI-GARM.” I couldn’t make out what he was saying as two separate words at this point, and asked him to repeat himself.
“Big Arm, Big Arm!”
I just asked my son to repeat that.
I avoided reacting to what he said and pretended that I still didn’t understand. I really hoped the lady next to us didn’t understand. Because nothing beats getting called fat by a three year old while gorging on carbs at the Olive Garden. Well, I suppose I’ve heard worse, but we’ll touch on that later.
When the couple beside us left, I took the quick moment of having a little personal space as an opportunity to explain why we don’t say things like that.
I said that it’s rude to point people out for things that they might be sensitive about. People are sensitive about the size and shape of their bodies. I understand you wanted to show me what was different about that lady, but people don’t particularly like to be recognized for certain kinds of differences.
I went on to explain that he’d be better off to point people out to me by mentioning the colour of shirt they are wearing, or their hair colour. Keep it simple, right? I was hoping to elaborate more about it later.
The next couple to be seated next to us arrived.
My son pointed and yelled “NO HAIR!”
So I’ve had several moments like such in my short parenting career. We once came around a corner and nearly bumped into a rather large gentleman (okay, no kidding, the guy must have been four hundred pounds at least.) I smiled and said hi, and noticed out of the corner of my eye that my son’s little finger was lifting into a point, and he was opening his mouth to tell me something. Fortunately I did learn one thing from the Olive Garden experience, and quickly shoved my hand right into his little mouth.
Yep, that’s right. Whatever fingers I could fit in that tiny mouth of his. I was NOT taking any chances. I literally put my hand in his mouth.
And thank goodness I did. When we got to the car, and I was buckling him in, I asked him what he was about to say.
Let’s just say, kids are explicitly honest.
We talked more about the whole body image thing, and it all blew over for a while.
Then my son turned four.
We were at the dinner table one night. My husband was helping himself to a big plate of SALAD. Yes, the healthiest, calorie-free thing you can eat.
My son said “Daddy, don’t eat so much salad or you’re going to get fat like ____!” (our guest.)
Let’s just say our guest has a great sense of humour, and nearly peed their pants along with us.
We talked thoroughly about the inappropriate use of this type of language. Hurtful words. Calling people fat. Being an ass.
I thought maybe the long talk we had about using the word fat may have helped… I thought after this experience, maybe we’d turn a corner.
I was tucking the little man into bed the other night, and he told me he was hungry.
I told him what I always tell him. “You need to eat more dinner, you say you’re hungry every night. When it’s dinner time, you have to fill your belly all the way up so it doesn’t grumble for more food until breakfast time.”
“But mommy, if I fill my tummy all the way up, I’m going to get fat like ladies do.”
To confirm my suspicion of who he meant, I asked “what ladies.”
He silently tapped my shoulder.
Great. Thanks pal.
Let’s just hope this gets better. Not worse.