Saturday, April 30, 2011


Dear J,

I don't know why, but 5 feels like a pretty big number. Sure, it's small in the grand scheme of things, but there's just something about the phrase "5 year old" that feels like a huge milestone to me. You're 5. I've been a mom for 5 years. The best, most blessed 5 years of my life. Also the fastest, most bittersweet 5 years of my life.

I remember being 5. The clothes I wore, the house I lived in, my mom's hairstyle, the shows that came on TV, the holidays with my grandparents, the anticipation of kindergarten, even some of the friends I had. I think that's why 5 is huge, it's one of the first years that you'll really remember for the rest of your life. I think about that alot as I watch you go through all of your little daily adventures, that you'll remember these times. This city, this house, your school, your teachers, the places you like to go, the games you play, the pets we have. But you won't remember them the way I will.

What I'll remember is how this is the year when you really came into your own. You started to experience the world in a different way, with your own preferences and interests that don't have anything to do with OUR preferences and interests. We tried to get you excited about karate, and you said you'd rather take a hip hop dance class. You stopped being into Dora and Diego and became obsessed with Scooby-Doo. Old Scooby-Doo, the exact same episodes we used to watch as kids, which is its own bittersweet thing. You started telling jokes (in your own fashion), inventing games, and building things out of household items. You began to see yourself as a bigger kid, especially compared to your little brother, but you also really bonded with him this year. Will you remember when we went to Sea World for this birthday and when we were at the hotel you told me that Jr. wanted to sleep in the same bed as you "because he's my brother and he really loves me." Probably not, but I will. You started to have a concept of what I do every day, and what work is, and what money is for, and how to save it. You played soccer, and wrote your name, and memorized almost every single song on the "Michael Jackson Number Ones" CD, and memorized the Lord's Prayer, and started learning Chinese just because you were interested in it. You kept reading, and reading, and reading, graduating from picture books to Dr. Seuss to "Junior Novels" in pretty much the blink of an eye (your current obsession: a Junior Novel about the Titanic. You carry that book around everywhere, telling me things like "Now the Titanic on the bottom of the ocean, buried under the silt and sand.") You're turning into your mother's son, reading books at the table, in the bathroom, in bed, in the car, everywhere you go.

But, thankfully, you're still little in some ways. Instead of correcting to you, I secretly want you to keep referring to the killer whales at Sea World as the "okras" (orcas) because it's so cute. You still cover your ears on the "scary" parts of your beloved Scooby-Doo episodes and Monsters Inc, even though you've seen them a thousand times. You're fascinated by everything, still easily entertained, still perfectly content to play with cardboard boxes and blankets (although I know video games are right around the corner). You continue to be a super picky eater, but there's glimmers of a little foodie in there. Pizza, hamburgers, spaghetti, quesadillas, grilled cheese sandwiches, hot dogs? No, no, never, no, nope, absolutely not. Brussels sprouts, parmesan brown rice, chinese food, sushi? Favorites. You cried when Daddy went out of town last month because you said no one would know how to play cars with you while he was gone. You still have days when you want to be carried around, and I get a little pang every time I realize you're really too big for that now. When did that happen?

5 years ago, your dad and I were SO desperate to meet you! You were TEN DAYS overdue, and all we could think about was what you would look like, how you would be, what things would we teach you, how are life would change once you got here. And you know what? You are so so so so so much more than we could have possibly imagined.

Happy 5th Birthday.

Love, Mommy

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

A few days ago I kept J home from preschool on my Friday off so me and the boys could spend a day together. I envisioned a lovely day going out to breakfast, dying Easter eggs, maybe a little shopping. I did not envision my 4.99 year old hurting my feelings.

The first part, breakfast, went well. We met up with a friend at our favorite pancake spot, talked over coffee, and managed to leave before Jr. completely embarassed me with his 18 month old antics in the restaurant. As we were driving away, I asked J if he enjoyed his breakfast.

"Yes," he said. Then he sighed. "I just keep getting fat."

?????? Sensing some kind of Parenting Teachable Moment, I proceeded cautiously.

"Um, did you just say you keep getting FAT? You're not fat, sweetie. Maybe you're just full because we had a big breakfast. Why do you think you're fat?"

"Well, maybe I'm not fat," he said, "but you are."

(What??? Did he just say I'm fat???)

"J," I said calmly, "I am NOT fat." Belatedly, I thought to add, "But even if I was, there wouldn't be anything wrong with that."

"Yes, you are fat," he said matter of factly.

"I'm really not fat, J." I said, trying not to sound defensive/hurt and failing miserably. "Why are you saying that, anyway? Do you even know what fat means?"

He thought for a minute. "It means...when your body is like...really wide."

Ouch. He knows what it means.

"J, who has been talking to you about being fat? Did somebody say something mean to you?" (About me? I thought but didn't say.)

"No," he said, again very matter-of-fact. "I just think you're fat."

"You don't think Mommy is pretty?" I asked, completely pathetic at this point, my ego being slowly crushed by my preschooler.

"Yes, you're pretty, Mommy. And fat."

Daaaaaang. Where the heck is this coming from?

"J, it's okay to be fat. But it's not nice to call people fat. It hurts their feelings. And for the record...I'm not fat." He looked confused, rightfully so. It's confusing. Why is it not nice to call people fat, when it's "okay" to be fat? Why do I care if my kid calls me fat, if I'm supposedly fine with myself however I am? For that matter, why does he even know about the concept of "fat?"

The more I thought about it, the more I wasn't sure exactly how to frame my response. On the one hand, I want J to understand that people come in all shapes and sizes, and there's nothing wrong with being heavier. I don't want him to be one of those kids who picks on the fat kid at school because he's naturally really thin and doesn't understand that some people are naturally...not thin.

On the other hand, I want him to understand that it's not okay to call people fat, even if it's true. That's a bit harder. How do I say, "it's okay to be fat" and then turn around and say it's mean to call people fat? It doesn't make good sense, does it?

And finally, I can't help but be a little hurt when J calls me fat. Is he comparing me to other moms he's seen? To people on TV? To himself? Where did he get the notion that I'm "fat?" Did I give him that idea? My weight has been pretty much an ongoing struggle my entire adult life. I've finally, after 15 years, gotten back to a comfortable weight for me. I try not to let my own body image issues seep out in front of the kids, but I have to wonder, have I been saying things about being fat in front of them? Do I obsess about food and diet? Should I not get on the scale when they're in the room? TH and I do talk about working out and how we "need to get back on track" when we've fallen off the wagon of eating right and exercising. Are we unintentionally giving J the idea that being overweight is a "problem" that you have to "fix?" Somehow I stupidly thought that because I have boys I wouldn't really have to worry about this kind of thing.


I'm ashamed to admit that I basically just avoided the topic, turning up the radio and changing the subject to how we were going to decorate our eggs. I've had all sorts of interesting conversations with J about religion, death, love, stranger danger, inappropriate touching, money, all the heavy stuff. But when it came to talking about weight and being "fat," I guess J found my kryptonite. I reeeeeeeallllly don't want to have the conversation, because I really don't like hearing my kid call me fat. Plain and simple.

Hopefully he'll forget the whole topic for another few years.