My little girl is due for her final check with the Maternal & Child Health Nurse next month, when she'll be three-and-a-half. I won't be taking her.
At all her baby checks we talked about how beautifully chubby she was. How healthy and clever and gorgeous and wonderful... all the usual gushy mother stuff. Then when she turned two, the conversation turned suddenly - to body mass indexes and obesity. A two-year-old. TWO!
Sure, she was still chubby. Yes, she was still above average in her weight (and also height, but that was never mentioned). Not once was I asked about her diet or activities or lifestyle. It was straight to the talk of BMI.
At the time, many people told me I was silly to have a problem with that. They're just trying to do their best to ensure obesity levels reduce, they'd say. Mums need to know this stuff.
I disagreed, and I still do.
By talking this way, the message is that we should be raising skinny kids. Not healthy, happy, intelligent, well-rounded (in life skills, I mean!) kids. Skinny.
They're saying it isn't important that my daughter has a balanced diet, that she's the healthiest child ever, that she's so active she'll walk anywhere with us, or that she's the happiest kid in the history of kids. They're saying they've forgotten what mums for hundreds of years have known: that a little chubbiness in a baby, toddler or child will set them up well for a good growth spurt. They're saying that being skinny would have been better than any of that.
I checked the graph in the health book the other day. I put my little girl's current weight and height into it, and when I saw that she's still in the 'above average' weight bracket, I made the decision not to take her for the check. (Although you should know that if I had any health concerns I'd take her to our family doctor; any developmental concerns and I'd be having those seen to as well.) I just don't want to have the conversation.
I don't think that a three-year-old needs to hear about her weight either. What she needs to hear are the things I tell her every day: that she's clever and kind and funny and beautiful. That we love her. That's it. It's our job as parents to monitor her health and happiness. It's her role as a kid to just have fun.
It scares me so much, that this focus on anti-obesity is turning so far the other way that weight is the foremost issue in people's minds. That's scary stuff. You think body image for young girls has been bad in the past? Wait for our kids to hit that age.
When I was about eight, I started worrying about my size. And I can tell you with absolute certainty that if anyone had spoken to me about diets or obesity or that fat equals bad, I would have plunged into some dark places. Of course, if there are health concerns they need to be addressed, for kids and adults alike, but let's focus on that keyword: HEALTH. Not how we look.
I recently had a chat to an eleven-year-old girl who told me she was on a diet. I gave her my usual anti-diet rant, and I told her she's perfect. (I also told her that if anyone ever tells her she's fat, to tell me and I'd beat them up. Before realising I'd just promoted violence. Ah well, you can't win them all.) I hope that she not only believes me, but hears it from so many people that she'll have no choice but to believe it.
That's what kids need to hear - from mums, dads, aunties, friends, everyone.
So the next child you see, please tell them how 'just right' they are. In a confusing world that's obsessed with so many things, they need some positivity.