Leila was over nine pounds when she was born. I, a natural worrier, fretted (secretly). Would she be big her whole life? As I squeezed her head through the holes of onesies and laced her round arms through sleeves, I worried: would she be…. fat?
Silly, I know. Oh, I know. Time passed and the pudgy baby morphed into a downright rotund toddler (the kind that has leg rolls dripping out of her diaper). My worries faded, slightly, and I spent more time nibbling and kissing those pudgy legs than worrying about what they would look like when she was an adult.
Now, she’s practically skin and bones. Shorter than most of the kids in her daycare class, ribs, spine and shoulder blades poking through her shirts. Legs lean, muscles budding under the flesh.
This whole story was supposed to be a segue into childhood obesity, but I’m pretty sure I’ve completely dropped the ball. Call me old fashioned, but I’m of the mindset that children should be outside, riding bikes, pumping their legs on swings, playing tag, falling down, coming in for supper with dirt under their nails. There they are greeted by a smiling mother who playfully scolds them as they run to the bathroom to wash before dinner.
The problem is, this doesn’t, this can’t always exist. People live in apartments with no green area in sight. Parents work long hours for money that barely covers childcare bills. Kids eat KD and hot dogs and (shudder) Happy Meals and then get diagnosed with ADHD and 7 cavities by their sixth birthday. And it’s just… it’s not fair.
It’s not fair to the kids, because children deserve better than video games and fast food. And it’s not fair to the parents, because they should be able to buy healthy food for their kids and take them to a park and teach them to ride a bike on a safe sidewalk.
And now there are so many overweight kids, and all the adults are wondering what to do. Blame the mothers! Blame the schools! Blame the food industry! Blame the government! These kids are Fat! Fat!! Fat!!
Is it everyone’s fault? Is it no one’s? I don’t know. But I do know that the last thing those kids need is someone whispering the “f” word behind their hand while trying to convince these kids to eat your veggies, dear lord.
Children are both amazingly resilient and heartbreakingly fragile. Does anyone honestly think that hearing the words “Childhood Obesity” over and over and over again makes these kids feel good about themselves? We can’t treat children like adults. This is not their fault*. I’m not sure whose fault it is, but I *know* it’s not theirs. They are but victims in this over-priced, under-valued, gadget-grabbing, validation-seeking world. They are innocent, to the absolute core of their being. All children want is love, acceptance and approval (hell, maybe that’s all everyone wants).
Everything I’ve read and listened to, from Nova Scotia school lunch programs to Jamie Oliver’s rant… there are some good points and some weak approaches. But does any of it touch the real issue: Why is healthy food so expensive?
I’m hesitant to point fingers, but I’m inclined to believe that the kind of change we need should come from government intervention. I know that there is this whole complicated web from the farmer to the grocery store shelf, but as far as real money goes? Shouldn’t we just help people be able to afford good food?
Doesn’t it just… make sense?