T waltzed into the bathroom as I emerged from the shower. I hid my annoyance at the intrusion and half listened as he chatted in my direction. Suddenly he bellowed, “I HAVE TO POOP!” “Kay, go ahead.”
He continued talking as he took care of business and I continued my morning routine. Eventually he hollered, “I’M DONE!” No idea why he needs to proclaim his plumbing issues at the top of his voice, but there you have it.
“Great!” I replied, kind of pissed that I have to feign enthusiasm as I wipe someone else’s ass. He assumed the position and grasped my naked thigh for balance. I noticed he was staring at it. When I finished he looked up at my face and said, “You are really fat.”
“Listen you fucking asshole. You come into my shower time which by itself is enormously irritating, you fill the bathroom with the horrid smell of your shit, and then you zero in on the thing I’m more self conscious about than any other and go right for the kill? FUCK YOU! FUCK YOU, YOU NASTY LITTLE SHIT!”
I didn’t say that.
But I really wanted to.
I took a breath. “Wow. Wow, T. You really hurt my feelings. I’m very upset. It is incredibly mean to call someone fat. You really made me feel terrible. It is unkind to comment on anyone’s weight. You shouldn’t call someone fat. You shouldn’t call someone skinny. It just really isn’t any of your business. Any by the way, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter what a person looks like or how big or small they are. What matters is who a person is on the inside.”
He considered me. “Well, aren’t you fat?”
I stood there. Damp and naked and vulnerable. I wanted to cry. Of course he does not understand that my self image is garbage. He doesn’t know that when I look in the mirror I see someone who is morbidly obese. He can’t comprehend mental illness. “Yes!” I want to shout, “Yes, I am fat and disgusting and an embarrassment! You nailed it, my son! You should be as ashamed of me as I am of myself!” And the anxiety, that bitch, she whispered in my ear that technically my BMI is in the overweight category. I’ve got another 10 pounds or so to go before I really can be considered “normal weight”. Wouldn’t it be the most genuine and honest to tell him I am fat?
I stood there and decided to not unload my insecurities on my four year old who wasn’t actually trying to be an asshole. Who was just calling ’em like he saw ’em. Who was learning about new concepts and trying them out in conversation. Who was being a completely normal kid.
“No.” I said. “I’m not fat. I’m not skinny. I’m in the middle. But like I said, size doesn’t matter.”
“Oh. Well, I’m in the middle, too.”
“Great. Now go downstairs.”
It isn’t like I haven’t been waiting for this day basically since he was born. I mean, there was no chance he’d call me skinny when he eventually learned about body types. So now it has happened. It stung like hell. Being a parent is suspiciously like being a grown up. I didn’t lash out, I didn’t wallow. I tried to teach him. I told him what I believe. Unless I am considering my own body. When I look at myself I become the meanest of mean girls. But today for the sake of my son I quieted that horrible bitch inside me, for a moment I tried to cut myself some slack.
It sucked. But life sucks sometimes. And I guess if he is going to call anyone fat I’d rather it be me. I don’t want him to contribute to anyone else’s body image baggage. And hopefully he won’t. Hopefully he saw my hurt and he’ll make different choices in the future.
Jesus fucking christ, parenting. Some days you ask for an awful lot.
This is a good kid. He is trying to figure the world out. Which is impossible to do without stepping on some toes. But his heart is in the right place. I’m proud of him. Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith.
Cousin chaos. Just after the photo was taken T tackled his Aunt Kelsey with the blanket. Photo by Ellie Leonardsmith.
Z got a red glass window somewhere and propped it in front of a window in his shop. For a few amazing minutes in the late afternoon this happens.