I made a pact never to interfere.
As a grandmother it is a tenet I steadfastly adhere to for a number of reasons. Keeping ones’ council is keeping the peace. I recognise we all have different ways of doing things. Times change. Parenting styles fall in and out of favour. The adage of never to repeat the mistakes of your own parents looms large and as long as my grandchildren are healthy, happy and loved, that will do.
But now I see the latest generation is obese at two years old. The latest statistics on childhood obesity paint an alarming picture; there are a myriad of health issues associated with the condition. Alarm bells are ringing all around the Western world as type 2 diabetes in children is on the rise. I know all this and yet I hesitate to point out the obvious to my daughter. The reality gap that exists is very pervasive and persuasive – it seems big is fast becoming the norm. No parent wants to admit their child is less than perfectly normal – in every respect. We count 10 fingers and 10 toes at birth. We listen to the doctors for reassurance.
My granddaughter is a bundle of joy in every way except her bundle is a burden and will be in later life.
In a world where too much is just enough and children are fed almost on demand, the rot sets in early. We have a land of plenty and it is all so easy. The cornucopia is overflowing with cheap, tasty, convenient food. Never has it been easier to just pop something in your mouth and chew – nothing is in short supply and one of the first actions in young lives is to go shopping for food. See it, want it, have it invades our very way of life in the pursuit of happiness and fulfilment. Food is no longer sustenance, it is a lifestyle choice – a way of life.
I saw the way the one and a half year old helped herself to the fridge. I could have said something, but didn’t. I saw the pictures on Facebook when they described their outing, including fish and chips, Coke and sweets. I stayed silent. How could I gently suggest an apple might suffice when my daughter was tucking into a calorific bonanza? My daughter is, of course, now obese. My daughter is not shocked by her little girl. Her ‘robust’ health is a source of pride and a job well done. My granddaughter’s peccadilloes regarding food are something to be labelled under cute in the Instagram photos and a turned up nose at broccoli is funny on Facebook. The underlying problem is not seen, not noted, not acted upon. Either by me or my daughter.
I feel a duty to intervene, but intervene is so close to interfere in the dictionary they might be mistaken – one for the other.
Duty is a word that springs to mind, but the consequences of the truth could be a rift that has only just healed from the turbulent teenage years. And who takes their mother’s advice anyway?!
As a parent I have expectations of my offspring. It’s natural to want the best for the kids. Schooling, lifestyle et al, but there is a hidden expectation that I would guess all parents share. That is that the fruit of your loins and labours will grow up ‘just like you’. The values we instil into their lives we hope will be visited in generations to come. When it comes to love, we make excuses for everything. The sins of the mother have been well and truly visited on my daughter’s hips. She is fat. I was fat. It was in our genes, we told everyone who would listen.
I hoped as she grew up she would remain average and so she did, under my guidance. I knew if I could control the calorific intake all would be well. Willpower on my own part was in short supply and it became a case of do as I say, not as I do.
But now I feel I have the moral high ground because after a lifetime of being overweight and diets, self help and calorie counting I have reached a place in my life where I have done it. I have lost weight. A considerable amount of weight and like an ex-smoker I feel I have the right to tell others of their folly. The moral high ground can be a lonely place. I have led by example and shared the journey with my daughter. I have supplied percentile diagrams, healthy eating tips etc to give her all the subtle hints. I have yet to tell her she is fat – her child is fat and they need to do something about it, now. Parenting skills are on-the-job training. No amount of reading, good advice or example can replace living at the coal face with a two-year-old screaming for that ice cream. My daughter is killing her child with kindness and finger food.
My reality gap is bridged with the thought that my daughter will find that place in her life a lot sooner than I did. That my granddaughter will ‘run it off’ and her body will grow into her spare tyre as a face grows into its new teeth at 8 years old.
These are things to hope for, but hopes and wishes won’t take the weight off. For my granddaughter, the 11th hour is now. I can see school as ‘the fat kid’ might be a nightmare. My life was certainly blighted by the title although in the 60s fat had a different line on the percentile chart. Today, perhaps with childhood obesity in epidemic proportions, no boy or girl will be branded with the moniker.
My concerns might be taken over by the government. As legislation governs more and more of our lives, school might provide the impetus to slim down where parents have failed to act. Losing weight is a personal battle, hard won, but to abrogate the responsibility to an authority might be the only way to get things moving. It is the coward’s way out. The easier option than confronting the truth.
Baltasar Gracian, the philosopher said, “Hope is a good hand at faking a truth”. All the cogent arguments in the world are not a substitute for the truth. I cross my fingers our relationship will survive the truth.
The truth is a hard thing to swallow, maybe harder than broccoli, but better for all concerned in the long run. I live in hope.
Share your thoughts below. Has this been you? Have you wanted to intervene like this but not felt it was your place?