When you think of the “F” word, what comes to mind? I have a pretty good guess… Yep, it’s a swear word. And yep, it’s off-limits in my house. It’s banned, along with the windfall of other curse words that come to mind. But here’s the thing. The “F” word to me isn’t exactly what you’re thinking…
In our house the “F” word is Fat. Fat? Really? Really. Why? Because words have power. We all have words that were spoken to us as children that have carried with us into adulthood. I bet you’re even thinking of those words now. For me, fat wasn’t one of them, but there were other variations of this “theme” that still plague me… but more of that for another time.
As a mom of 3 boys, it’s taken all of the almost 16 years of parenthood to realize that boys interact differently than girls. Duh, you may say! But having grown up with only one sister, and despite me being the ultimate tomboy, this is new territory for me. The constant barrage of put-downs, one-upmanship, and competition is overwhelming at times. Family dinners always seem to bring it to a head. I’m not sure I can recall a time when there hasn’t been at least one jib or smart-alec remark thrown across the table. I’ve tried “ban” days where I’ve attempted to control the banter, but it’s been fruitless, even on Thanksgiving when I’ve initiated the “go around the table and say one thing you’re thankful for about the other person” conversation. There is ALWAYS a backhanded compliment… ALWAYS!
I drew the line, however, when one of my boys started referring to another brother using the “F” word. Now, I had already talked to all of my boys about this word and how it was NEVER to be used when talking about a girl… EVER. But, I wasn’t prepared for it being used in our own household to refer to each other. The “mudslinger,” in this case, has always been a skinny-minny who needed “slim” jeans with adjustable waists on their smallest setting to keep his pants in place and still struggles to find ones that fit. The “target,” of the “F” word, however, was more on the “husky” end and his height often kept him in a size beyond his age. A contrast for sure.
So, seeing a body that was different than his led to one of our boys targeting his less thin brother for weight related “joking.” During one of our solo car rides together (a GREAT time for conversations btw), I nicely but firmly confronted the “offender” about the joking and reminded him that referencing his brothers weight in ANY way, even if he was “only kidding” was off limits. My ire was raised even further when he chuckled at it and said I was over-reacting. I took this teaching moment to make it crystal-clear that the word “Fat” was worse than any swear word he could ever utter. I told him how his joking was playing itself out by his brother asking if the food he was eating would make him fat and how he’d started referring to himself using the “F” word. And that made me angry. Kids should not already be that aware of how they look. I’d already had too many conversations with moms of young girls to know the pressure they were already facing with body image at WAY too young an age. So, to see it first-hand, and from a BOY, I had to draw the line.
As a a side note, my boys really are kind, sensitive kids. Each of them has an incredibly soft and tender heart thats displayed often with their friends and, on occasion, family! I don’t expect them to always say and do the right thing. They’re kids… and they’re boys, which I’m just beginning to understand.
I can’t protect my kids from everything. I can’t prevent them from hearing what other people say outside of my home. I can’t bind the lips of friends and strangers and teachers. I know people can be cruel. But, I CAN set rules and guidelines in my own home. I CAN teach kindness and encourage my kids in their strengths and uniquenesses And I CAN intervene when the “just kidding” goes too far.
And in my world, the “F” word is too far…