Whack-a-Mole: Parenting in an Intrusive World

Poop-slinging is not just for primates. I know, because I experience it as a mom firsthand all the time. I’m not talking about literal poo once flung at me by kicking baby legs—technically, that’s not slung. I’m talking about the endless heaps of crap the world puts on parents, day in and day out:

  • Sexualized monster dolls with anorexic thigh-gap and Kris Jenner eye makeup
  • Vaccination, breastfeeding, and red-shirting debates that outheat the meetings of the Continental Congress
  • Surprise commercials for things like CSI: Cannibal Ear-Rape Unit during family Christmas specials
  • Endless scare campaigns about eating high-fructose corn syrup, GMOs, aerosolized feces, snow, etc.
  • Magazine covers with the lying liars who make babies in Hollywood and the lying liars who help them lie about the baby weight they “melt away” three weeks post-partum through a combo of Pilates, coconut oil, and Acai berries. Liars.
  • Know-it-alls forever saying, “If I were a parent, I would never…” [insert karma’s placeholder here] as if it were as simple as boiling an egg or crate-training a dog
  • YouTube instructional videos for DIY push-up, padded training bras
  • Absurdly expensive athletic programs that require 12 practices a week and a second mortgage, until the third grade, when it all doubles
  • My personal nemesis, the bottomless sea of paper: teachers’ notes, permission slips, school calendars, snack lists, book fair circulars, fundraiser order forms, and really bad artwork that only qualifies as artwork because your child wrote his/her name on it during art class

It’s nothing, really. I’m sure every generation of parents has it’s crap, and I’m not complaining. I do my best to roll with the punches and stay ahead of the whack-a-mole game that is raising kids. But sometimes I just have to laugh at the absurdity of what gets slung at me by our hyper-ridiculous society. Look at the headline of a note I received today from the University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine and Public Health:

Exclamation Point!!!!

An Intervention!!! Exclamation Point!!!!

No pressure there, right? Screw the “happiest kid on the block.” We’re going for global domination! Basic rule of thumb I’ve learned as a writer: Be wary of exclamation marks. They often indicate hysteria, fake excitement, ignorance—or, in this case, all three.

Turns out the university thinks my kid is fat. And they want to do something about his dangerous fatness—as well as mine and his dad’s—through a special web-based program to help us exercise and eat healthier meals: “All parents and children will be weighed and measured at the first visit, and again at 6 month and at 12 months.”

Um. Really?

This letter took me off guard. It explained that an enclosed body mass index (BMI) chart—on which my son’s latest BMI was shown—indicated that my son is heading for heart disease, bone problems, and diabetes. Basically, they called my kid fat, and then very subtly indicated that my husband and I must be fat, too.

Thank God SOMEBODY'S looking out for my kid.

Thank God SOMEBODY’S looking out for my kid.

Most of you don’t personally know my son. Let me just say that I regularly worry he isn’t eating enough. He even has a little preschooler six-pack. You know what I’m talking about, right? I’d kill to have his abs.

The BMI is an arcane tool, and you can Google to your heart’s content to find out why. Basically, it’s an oversimplification and doesn’t really measure what doctors purport it measures. My husband used to always tip the BMI index at “obese” when he was in the military. Then they’d do what’s called a “tape test” to measure his various body parts in proportion to one another (no penises, I promise) and conclude otherwise. In other words, the BMI is flawed.

So, I wrote a harsh letter to the university. It had more to do with my critically anorexic cousin—now in her 20s—than with my son. That the medical community would start imposing diets on 4-year-olds with six packs? Please. Let’s sling some more poop at parents. I’m sure there are kids who will benefit from the program, but I could not help but wonder about the 11-year-old girl who might intercept that form letter, who might be perfectly well proportioned, and who might head up to her bedroom sobbing because the numbers show she’s “fat.” And the doctors want to pay her family a $100 research reimbursement to see if they can un-fat her!

Maybe the medical school undertook this ill-researched project to jump through a funding hoop. I’m certainly not signing up. I don’t aspire to having the “healthiest kid on the planet,” but I don’t think I’m terribly far from just that. I aspire to having normal kids who walk the usual tightrope of living, who aren’t scared to death by all the poop being slung at them and their parents over the course of their sweet little childhoods. I want kids who are prepared to take the reins when it’s their turn to be mommies and daddies. I suspect there will be ever-more poop slung at them. But just as I was there to wipe it off their bums from the start, I want to be there to wipe it off their faces someday so they can still see straight.

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7 Responses to Whack-a-Mole: Parenting in an Intrusive World

  1. I’ve read over and over again that the BMI is inaccurate, and the example is always a body builder with a high BMI. But for those of us who aren’t body builders, isn’t it basically a pretty good tool? Not perfect but a pretty good guide? Just wondering, since it’s what I use for myself.

    I had no idea that they used the BMI to evaluate four year olds. Is he particularly tall?

    • I think it’s a fair indicator most of the time, but as you can see its inaccuracy with my husband and son, it’s not foolproof. Yes, my son is tall for his age. He’s also a bodybuilder. 😉

  2. lablover22 says:

    I’m 5 feet tall (I swear I’m a grown up and not some tweener on your site) and I weigh 137 pounds. Yes, 137 pounds. That’s after losing 40 pounds 6 years ago and keeping it off. I work out consistently and eat as clean as a girl with a love of coffee can get. I’m considered obese. Yup, whether it’s a height/weight chart or that blasted BMI, I’m obese. I wear a size 6. I deadlift 202. I back squat 178. And I’m obese. Screw all those charts and measurements. I’m in the best shape of my life at 38. I’m the most comfortable in my skin. I’m the happiest ever.

    Sadly, it took me 38 years to get here. I have wonderful, loving, encouraging parents. But sometimes their voices weren’t loud enough to drown out the ones in my head, the ones in the magazines, the ones next to my locker. Be a good mom. Provide good food. Arrange opportunities for fun and exercise and frollicking and even watching movies with snacks. Teach balance. Be the mama bear you are and teach, protect and encourage. That’s all they’ll need to be the Healthiest Kid They Can Be.
    Vicky
    http://www.thepursuitofnormal.blogspot.com
    P.S. My now 9 year old had an 8 pack and biceps at 3 months. I’m not kidding. His hair also grew in flat so everyone called him Semper Fi because he looked like a mini Marine. Living just a few miles from a Marine Base made it even more funny!

    • You always leave such good and thoughful comments! Thanks. I like your simple advice here. And I laughed at your description of your little Semper Fi. By the way, I don’t even know if I can deadlift anything. 202!??

  3. When my daughter was 5, I was told that my daughter needed to watch her weight and choose healthy snacks…right in front of her! She kept asking me if the doctor called her fat. She is 11 now and still worries about what she is eating. Damn BMI! (and that is me being somewhat hysterical about it or at the very least, yelling). She was fine. Thanks for visiting my blog. You’re right, we are on the same page. 🙂

    • Thanks for returning the visit! You have a really nice blog, and I’m glad I found it today. That really stinks that a doctor would make a 5-year-old feel fat! It seems like there should be some other tool for judging when weight is truly becoming a health issue — and I think treading lightly when kids are very little is important. I know so many kids who were little chub-a-lubs during periods of their childhood but eventually outgrew it. An old picture of me sitting in a tube-top something or other when I was about four, rotund belly that looks like I just had three Thanksgiving dinners, comes to mind. 🙂

  4. MILF Runner says:

    Your opening list had me in laughing. Way to sucker me into a hard topic (for me) with humor. My oldest daughter is in the BMI danger zone. It’s been hard. She’s just a “sturdy” girl. But I know that now she’s self-conscious about it – thanks, middle-school mean girls 😦

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