Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays!

These are a little late for the winter solstice which was yesterday, but happy holidays and enjoy! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What's it like to be a 200lb 8 year old?

So this story has been making the rounds and I'm sure you've all seen it- 200lb third grader put into foster care. People are talking an awful lot about what constitutes child abuse, throwing in quite a bit of vague future health threats. They're calling it medical neglect and insisting that he's in imminent danger despite any actual evidence of any life threatening danger. The whole thing started when the boy's mother took him to the ER because he couldn't breathe (medical neglect? That seems pretty responsible to me). It turned out that he had sleep apnea, something that thin people as well and can be treated and controlled. Even if his sleep apnea was proven to be caused by his fat, it doesn't matter since we don't know how to make fat people thin.

 What terrifies me is how many parents also agree with this decision (try hanging around some parenting message boards where this is being discussed.. whew! You have to save up your mental health points for that one!) and how few people are actually thinking about how this will effect the child. Fat people, including children, are often dehumanized and objectified (sexual objectification is not the only way to objectify someone). We are reduced to our bodies, to our fat, rarely being seen as actual human beings. But for this boy, he has to live the real life consequences of stigma and discrimination. While the boy's identity has been kept secret to protect him (not that he's currently being protected thanks to the system that removed him from his home), below is a photo of another eight year old boy who was 200+ lbs, Connor McCreaddie.

How fat is this really? It sort of blows my mind that this is what everyone's ruffled about. It's true that you don't often come across a child this large, but it's not exactly new either. More so, it's not a death sentence. The number of people who have proclaimed, as if it's fact, that the boy removed from his home would be dead by 30 without intervention, is ridiculous. I've posted it before, but here's a photo of me from the beginning of my 6th grade year at 10 years old:

Ignore the 80's style dress and gigantic glasses and take a look at how fat I was. By this time I was actually about the same size I am now- a size 22 or so. And, while the vast majority of kids in my school were slimmer than I, there were two children who were larger. I'll be 30 in a few years and I don't have any "obesity related" diseases and I'm pretty sure I'm not going to drop dead by 29. But if all fat people drop dead before they turn 30 someone really needs to tell all of the fat old people, including my fat 83 year old grandmother, that they've somehow outstayed their welcome among the living. Silly fat people, didn't they know they weren't supposed to live that long?

Now, full disclosure, I didn't weigh quite as much as the little boy being taken away from his family. I weighed closer to 150lbs. I think, it's safe to say however, that at a size 22/24 at 10 years old, I was pretty fat. While reading comments about how this boy's been treated I'be seen a lot of people accuse the mother of feeding the child a terrible diet that made him pack on the pounds. I grew up with two, slim, siblings who ate exactly as I did. We were all only a year apart in age (with myself being in the middle) so our diets were almost identical. Same school lunches, same after school snacks, same meals at home. And we were banned from snacking between meals. We had the same chores, all ran around like wild things during recess, and all had the same activity level. So why was I fat and they were slim? I'm sure there are a hundred and one things that could have caused my weight gain, but that didn't stop people from blaming me, just as they tend to do now, but the fact is there is nothing my mother could have done because there was nothing that was different about me other than my fatness.

This child already has to face bullying from peers. He seems lucky that he has a loving mother and doesn't get bullied at home as well. By the time this photo was taken I had already been fat for about two years. I already blamed myself, blamed my body, and hated them both. I started weighing myself and dieting thinking, "if I can stay this weight and not gain anymore then I'll grow into it".  The emotional turmoil that led to self destructive behaviors that I experienced is likely nothing to what I would have experienced had I been taken away from my home because of my weight.

This child, this eight year old child, will blame himself for what's happened. I realize that fat children often seem older than they are, just as tall children seem older as well. A friend has a young child who's two heads taller than the other kids his age and everyone who deals with him has to constantly remind themselves to treat him like a five year old, not a seven or eight year old. No one's really considering how this child feels nor do I think they truly grok that he's only 8. I want every single person to just stop and think back to when they were that age, really remember it. Playing with your friends on the playground, holidays with your loved ones, field trips, vacation. Now think about being taken away from them, put with strangers, only allowed to see your parents or siblings for a couple of hours a week, all because you could do something right, because you couldn't change enough. You, you, you. You failed, all your fault. Now why, why, would you think it's okay to do that to a child who is loved and wanted?

And to all of the people who say that this boy will, without a doubt, get diabetes and heart disease, I put myself forth. I never developed either. Maybe I'm not quite thirty, but I have no signs of developing them either with my cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar all well within the normal range. It's not a guarantee. Fat doesn't guarantee poor health or death and him losing weight certainly wouldn't guarantee good health or a long life.

200 lbs. Yes, that's fat, but it's not so far outside the realms of reality that we need this moral crusade. Shame on everyone who would destroy this child's life, with no actual consideration of his well being beyond the borg like thought "he needs to be thin", bleated out by sheeple who haven't bothered to actually consider the consequences of what's being done. Shame on those who dehumanize a child, reduce him down to his body without a single thought towards his mind or his wholeness as a human being. Shame on those who demonize a struggling mother simply trying to do the best that she can while being threatened with the worst thing a mother could ever go through- losing a child. This case is being handled and commented upon with an almost sociopathic lack of empathy. Put yourself in this child's shoes- just for a second, and remember that he is a human being and he deserves the love of his family.

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