Tuesday, 16 October 2018

The question is...

One of the perks of parenting is the questions. They're incessant, sometimes tiring ('You can pluck a tiger bald' Ted Hughes told his interlocutor daughter!) but often very, very funny.

'Daddy, you know a baby's made when a daddy's seed is mixed with a mummy's egg? Well, how does it get there?'

'Daddy, you know how we're all standing up but the world's round? Well, how do we know which way up we are?'

'Daddy, am I an iguana?'

'Daddy, when you an mummy got married, where was I?'

'Daddy, when you were little were you an evacuee?'

And so on...

I'm used to it. (Three kids, you just are!)

But this morning I got asked a question that stopped me in my tracks. As usual, it was just as we were about to leave the house. Shoes had been hastily fastened, bags packed, coats pulled on and we were about to step outside when...

'Daddy?' [Embarrassed smile!] 'Am I fat?'

My mind went blank for a moment. I know how important it is to respond appropriately, to take each question seriously, not to mock, not to dismiss, not to dissemble. But what could I say?

I also know - and hope to have practised - the importance of not commenting negatively or otherwise on the variety of shapes and sizes people come in. That's just the way the world is, I tell them. People are different. And your shape is just right for you.

But she's not fat, my seven-year-old daughter. Far from it. And she's not (as far as I'm aware) at all worried by it, or by anything else to do with her size or shape or hair or eye colour.

She wants to be a fairy. Or sometimes a puffin. And maybe a mermaid. But that's as far as her generalised dissatisfaction with being human goes. It does not (or has not) as far as I'm aware extended to even a fleeting desire to be any other (human) shape.

She eats well. We have a generally healthy diet. We eat meals together. Food isn't an 'issue'.

So, where does such a question (such a direct question) come from?

And how the hell do you answer it?

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