The above quote was said to me by my eight-year-old son. My son is eight going on eighty-five, and he loves his lists. After hearing me gripe about not being able to go running because of the 22 degree wind chill, he decided to come up with an indoor workout we could both do. Apparently, the workout involved his own hand-crafted moves including, but not limited to, the whale, the turtle, and the anchor.
I was intrigued and also a wee bit flattered that he would go to such lengths to help me out, so I agreed immediately.
“Great,” he said as he started to bolt down the steps. “I will go get everything ready. Let’s get you skinny!”
The words hit me as I heard him jump to the final step. Does he think I’m fat? Has my terrible body image infiltrated our lives to the point that my youngest son feels he needs to help keep me on track? All of these thoughts started to run through my mind all at once. I wasn’t sure if I should address it or just let it go because I was not really sure what to say. I did not want to discourage his momentum, but I also had to know where that statement came from. I am certainly not getting “Mom of the Year” if I have made my son feel that is all I care about.
I walk downstairs and he has taken all of the pillows off of both couches and is piling them around the room.
“Hey, buddy,” I said as I approached.
“Hey, Mom,” he said as he continued his work, putting my arm weights in the corner of the room. “That’s going to be the Arm Station.” I smiled.
“That’s really great,” I said, “but can I talk to you for a second?”
“Sure, Mom.” He stopped working and looked at me.
“Buddy, I was just wondering why you think you have to help me get skinny.”
“Because that’s what everyone wants,” he said. “I want to get skinny, too.” I laughed. My son was a rail. Despite how much I feed him, he continues to grow taller but no fuller. You can see his ribs.
“You don’t need to get any skinnier,” I answer.
“Ok, well, we will just get you skinnier, then,” he said.
“Buddy, no,” I replied. “I don’t want to get any skinnier. Mommy just wants to get healthier and stronger.” I felt like this was a profound revelation for me. Yes, I thought, this is really all I want.
“Oh, okay,” he said.
“Does that make sense? ”
“Sure,” he answered. “Can we start Jonah’s Spectacular Workout Program now, Mom?” I nod my head and tell Alexa to set the timer for 20 minutes.
Like so many, I battle every day with how I feel about my body. I have worried that my negative views of my own body would affect my children. At 42, I think I am finally ready to live in this world of just being healthy and strong, but I am still afraid that the damage has been done. In all fairness, I am not the only one to blame. You cannot turn on the television or tune into the radio without a constant barrage of ways to get skinny. Living in a country where over half the population is obese, weight loss has become a money making machine. Whatever the cause, the symptom is my eight-year-old is concerned with getting skinny whatever he thinks that means.