I have sons, which shields me from some of the oddities of the young female set. Not to say that boys don’t have their own sets of peculiarities. But as the mother of boys, there are a few things I just don’t have to deal with. I know, I’m a girl, but there are some things I’m glad I don’t have to deal with. For instance, boys generally don’t have to change into new outfits several times a day. On the other hand, they could stand to change their underwear a little more often. Like once a day would be good. But girls seem to require a lot of outfittage, and that would drive me batty.
With boys, there are generally no arguments over whether platform shoes may or may not be worn to gym class. Boys tend to not squeal. I’m not saying all girls squeal, but come on. Girls are often the source of some serious squealing. And I mean, ouch!
Also, in a houseful of fellas, the plaintive refrain, “I am so fat!” is not a common one.
I get to hear the girls’ side of things from a good friend of mine, a friend who has a daughter named Lily. Lily is eccentric, wildly fashionable, and a very interesting girl. She is ten years old, towers over my ten-year-old son by at least a foot (and is disconcertingly a head taller than I am), reads “Dwell” magazine, and favors Chinese pajamas. Did I mention she is ten? She is mad about Japanese fashion. She has pink hair. She is not a slender, willowy tall girl, she is a big, healthy, gorgeous Polish princess. (Literally. Lily’s Grandmother, an actual Polish Princess, had to escape
At any rate, I love this girl, and I love the madcap and imaginative outfits she assembles. She is a fashion inspiration. My admiration was cemented when I overheard her friend make a comment to the effect that boys don’t generally appreciate her unique fashion sense, and Lily responded matter-of-factly, “Why should I care what the boys think?”
This is a very self-possessed little girl. She has confidence without arrogance or superiority. But every now and then, according to her mother, there is a sigh of “Mommy, my belly is too big,” or even the dreaded, “I am so fat!.” These rare outbursts are met with reassurances about her beauty -- about inner beauty, outer beauty, healthy beauty, and the fact that she’ll probably be growing another twelve inches and everything will all work itself out.
But this is the kind of thing Lily must contend with on a regular basis at ten years old: her tiny, skinny little friend comes for dinner. The friend is served a lovely chicken burrito. Grilled chicken wrapped in a tortilla. A meal this girl seems to enjoy, but very selectively, mostly picking bits of chicken out of the tortilla. When the girl’s mother arrives to pick her up, my friend mentions that the girl didn’t seem to eat a lot of dinner, but did pick a little chicken out of the tortilla. This woman assures my friend that her daughter has had plenty to eat, adding with a chuckle, “She just hates the carbs.”
She hates the carbs? She hates the carbs? This girl is ten years old. Does she have any idea what “carbs” are? Because it seems possible that mommy, in her enthusiasm for slimming down her adult body by avoiding all bread and pasta, has given her daughter a serious bit of misinformation. And this little girl could very well base a lifetime of eating decisions on this skewed bit of information. Does this little girl know the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates? Does she know that whole grain breads and cereals will be better for her than “low carb” cookies? Does she know that fruit and vegetables are also considered carbohydrates, but they’re like, really important ones for her growing body?
I am not a nutritionist, but I am a mom. A mom who likes to cook, and have parties, and feed children. And it just feels wrong that ten-year-old girls are suddenly concerned with “carbs. “ Unless they are prone to downing boxes of Dunkin’ Donuts every morning, children shouldn’t even be burdened with such nonsensical notions of dieting. Isn’t it tough enough being a girl these days, without having your mother encouraging you to monitor your intake of “carbs?”
Shame on this mommy for not only planting the seeds for possible future body-image issues, but for teaching her daughter terrible manners. I find it annoying enough when grown-up women discuss their ingestion of “carbs,” but when the children start in with it, I just want to throw a toaster.
In a world run by me, we would all take pleasure in eating, cooking, and sharing food. We would teach our children about proper nutrition and exercise, but we would joyfully share our enthusiastic appreciation of good food with them, as well. Food is not our enemy. It is a delight and a pleasure, and we are lucky to enjoy such an abundance of it in. Food is a means of connecting with other people. It can satisfy our stomachs and our souls. It’s one of the greatest pleasures of life, like Chinese pajamas, and pink hair. And we need to help our children develop a healthy relationship with it, from the time they are very young.