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The F-word

 |  Parenting

f-a-tYesterday I was high-fiving the blogosphere as I read @NomadMomDiary‘s post “Not all F words are created equal“. It appealed to me for two reasons:

  1. Because I (controversially) swear in front of my kids
  2. Because the “F” word — that is, FAT — is not allowed in my house

My tweet to this effect raised a mostly positive reaction but Aisling asked a great question:

It was a valid criticism of the idea of banning words and how it might have undesired consequences (which is relevant to why I swear in front of my kids) but, through lack of explanation on my side, missed the point behind my banning of the F-word in my house. It’s not that I’ve sat my kids down and said “we don’t say fat, it’s bad”, it’s just something not discussed:

  • I don’t refer to people as “fat”
  • I don’t refer to myself as fat (within earshot, my blog doesn’t count. No it doesn’t, shut up.)
  • I don’t talk about dieting or losing weight
  • I never force my kids into finishing a meal; I trust them to know when they’re full
  • I talk about food positively, emphasising good nutrition as a baseline but enjoying everything in moderation
  • I talk about exercise from a health and strength point of view

Despite this “avoidance” of the word fat, and general attempts at body positivity and emphasising fitness over perceived fatness, Isabel told me on Tuesday morning that I am fat. I was genuinely shocked to hear the words fall out of her mouth. Not because it bothers me if she thinks I’m fat (I don’t need validation from a little girl) but because I thought I was doing a good job on avoiding what feels like a slippery slope into the world of fad diets, image-obsession and social pressure to look a certain way. I’m not ready to have to discuss these issues with a 5 year old and I don’t think she’s ready either.

I don’t have an answer to dealing with this, although I told Izzy that I didn’t want to hear her call someone fat again because it might hurt their feelings; that there are more important things to people than how much they weigh.

Still, it just goes to show that you can avoid what you like at home, the moment they’re in school they pick up things from their peers you might not like, including the F-word.

Jem Turner +44(0)7521056376

8 comments so far

  1. Lynn @Nomad Mom Diary said:

    Thank you so much for the thoughtful comments! My four year old said the F word in the car the other day and I was stunned. Fat just has a whole host of negative connotations and I think you are spot on in your plan for teaching about health and body positivity.

  2. Clem said:

    I think this is a tricky one! I think I agree with both you and Aisy… Kids shouldn’t be taught that “fat” is a bad word or that it’s the worst thing a person could be, but it’s also super important to model healthy, body positive behaviour to your kids, which definitely includes not speaking of yourself or others in negative way, going on fad or crash diets, etc. I read an article awhile back (wish I remembered where so I link it) about a woman who did call herself fat in front of her kids, but made it clear that it was just a truthful description and not a criticism of her body. Her aim was for her kids to not see “fat” as an insult or negative word and to grow up without fearing or hating their own bodies. Then again, as with reclaiming any word, not everyone is comfortable with using it and trying to make it a positive thing isn’t for everybody!

    • Jem said:

      I think part of me feels like because the majority of people use fat in a pejorative way, for me to try and “take it back” would be fighting against the flow and I guess while this might be the best way to approach it, I’ve not got the energy for that fight and so I avoid it altogether. :S

  3. Kya said:

    That would be really difficult. I think it is wonderful that you are teaching them many positive aspects of health and hopefully it will be something they can embrace through their lives.

    Aisling did raise a good point.

    It would be really difficult to try and decide what was the best way.

  4. Liz said:

    The first time I ever heard the “F” word in the curse word sense, I was an innocent little sixth grader. I shocked my guardians so much. I wasn’t in trouble for saying it, but they had tried so hard to not say it around me, and after that, I realized they said it more often. (I had asked what it meant, because someone asked me if I wanted to “F Tyler”, and they were like, “Do you even know what that means?” and never told me what it meant.)

    I guess the route to take might be to continue to not use the word, rather than actually using it. They’re two totally different words, but nevertheless, it’s all I would think to do. Good luck!

  5. Kris said:

    I think you dealt with that situation excellently, one can only hope if I am ever in a similar situation I deal with it just as well.


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