The F-word

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.