‘Mama, I love your big fat bod.’  Raising a fat positive kid, hopefully (PART 1).

IMG-3191Hey babes, so I have been tinkering away at this blog post for a year or so. Mostly because it is so freaking long and I am tres realistique about how many words to foist upon you at any given time. I’m super clear that as a rule, I could be a little less verbose/everything I write could use a hard edit, but, I have decided that it is, after all, just a blog so if it is kinda shitty, the stakes are low. I’m gonna share it in a few parts so  people will be able to get through it without muttering curses at me under their breath. There are no cliffhangers though so you are gonna have to rely on intrinsic motivation to get through all the parts. Hopefully it can help us raise a fiery band of fat positive kids who look upon diet culture with disdain and pity. Fingers. Crossed.

My kid is lucky. She has fat parents who don’t hate their fat bodies 24/7. We are basically the fat positive needle in the parent haystack. Even better, we are for sure the vainest babes in our peer group. I believe that my kid’s accidental good fortune in the parent lottery has meant that her relationship to her own body is pretty damn good, at least I freaking hope it is. I have never heard her say a bad word about how she looks or her body overall which is saying something. If anything, we have tipped her over into a deep sea of vanity which, to be perfectly honest, I consider a protective factor against the body hating fatphobia of the rest of the universe. Now can I say for certain that having fat positive fatties as parents is *directly* responsible for the fact that at 7, she does not know what a diet even means? Well not totally, but I mean SURELY we have been a contributing factor? I mean I will concede that, in general, my parenting approach is ‘cross your fingers and hope I don’t fuck her up too much’, and I am certain that much of my parenting ‘skills’ could be improved dramatically, but I feel like in this area, I have done some on purpose shit that I think has contributed to (at least for now) a less messed up perspective on bodies and fatness. And, at the bare minimum, has not added to the constant barrage of media and moral panic around fatness that is coming at her.

I know I’m not the only one who gives a shit about this stuff. Other people, who are also in charge of raising a better generation of humans than us, want their kids to love their bodies, act as allies to fat people, and not have disordered relationships to food and activity as much as I do. I know this is true.  Now, obviously, desire and action are two different things and most of us are so busy trying to keep these tiny people alive that we don’t always have time to share what works with each other. Which means we don’t always have the tools we need at our fingertips. What I also know is that, like most other fucked up shit in the world – I’m looking at you white supremacy, cissexism, racism, settler colonialism, ableism to name a few off the top of my head – if we are not constantly examining how we engage with fatness and interrupting that shit with our kids, they will just end up defaulting to the socially acceptable norm, which to be clear is actively harming everyone and is literally dangerous for those of us navigating these norms in a fat body.

And for kids being raised by thin privileged parents it is extra important to make sure that the kids that you raise won’t be the ones making life a living hell for the fat kid in their class AND that, if you are lucky enough to be raising a gorgeous magical fat kid, that they know that you love their body and them and that you will fight for a world that can recognize how goddamn valuable, beautiful and important they are.

So, I want to share some of the things that I have found helpful (or at least not actively harmful) AND some of the things that I do in my day to day to counterbalance the influence of every other input in the lives of our kids. I want her to be the best fucking accomplice to fat people she can be or a fat babe living her best life, so I do what I can. I’m working hard now because I am very aware that in a hot second she will think everything I have to say is irrelevant garbage. The clock is ticking y’all. So, let’s get to it.

  1. Fat Neutrality VS Fat Positivity

We use the word fat not only in a neutral way, but in an actively positive way. It is not enough to use the word ‘fat’ simply as a descriptor. It is a good start. OK let’s be real, in the current social context that shit is a radical start. And yet, babes, I feel strongly that just because the bar is miserably low that doesn’t mean the bare minimum will cut it. we need to take it further. If we can get to a place where we are talking about all the amazing things that fat bodies can do (float, offer comfort, lift things, etc.) then we are rejecting the idea that fat bodies have nothing to offer. When I was a kid I remember walking the dog with my dad, who is also fat. I was a kid and I must have said something about being fat that didn’t sit well for him – likely wishing I was thin like my mum and brother. And my sweet, fat, gentle, science fiction loving dad, who probably had no clue what to say to his girl, looked at me and said something like ‘different bodies are good at different things. For example, in an apocalypse you would probably live longer because you have more fat stored than skinny people.’ Now, this sentence probably began my obsession with apocalypse planning, but it also shifted my thinking about bodies to include context, and I goddamn hung onto that over the years. Cause even though it was a weird as shit thing to say to a kid, it was also the first time I had heard an adult name a strength associated with being fat and therefore my body. He acknowledged my body, saw it, and in his weird way acknowledged a scenario where my body would survive. Bodies have different value depending on what is happening around us and thinking about that context starts us thinking about systems and shit outside ourselves that plays a role in how life plays out. Now we certainly don’t need to get that heady with 6 year olds, just pointing out how fat bodies are valued in different contexts and how awesome fat can be is probably enough for now.

In a similar, but slightly different vein it is also important to move past saying things like ‘all bodies are good bodies’ and engage in ultra-specificity around the awesomeness of the fat body. ‘Look at your mum’s beautiful belly that feels so good to rest your head on.’ ‘Auntie Maggie’s bathing suit looks amazing on her.’ Etc. I mean obviously get permission to talk about someone else’s body, but you catch my drift. Pretending my body is not fat is not being fat positive. Cause, while all bodies are good bodies, some bodies have to shout a little louder to make sure the punks in the back can hear. So, the more of us shouting the better.

Part two continues tomorrow…

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