A Quite Convincing Mummy

It’s early on a Friday.
I wonder who I am.
On Monday I was Penny
To a tiny Fireman Sam.

On Tuesday I was Daddy.
On Wednesday I was Pa.
I’d come around with tools
So that I could fix the car.

On Thursday I was hopeful
When you said I was the cat.
I thought there would be napping,
But you wanted none of that.

So Friday’s rolled around
And I wonder who I’ll be.
Every brand new day
Seems to bring a brand new me.

But you wake up feeling sick;
Say you have an achey tummy.
At times like these I still can be
A quite convincing Mummy.


Body Image and Kids: Choosing the Right Words

The wonderful Julie from Happy Mama Happy Baby is running a blog event throughout January, called Body Positive January 2016. Julie says it is “the antidote to all that New Year’s resolution, diet tip, exercise routine chatter the internet is about to explode with.”

When Julie asked me to write a guest post as part of the series, I wasn’t sure that I was the right person. It’s not my area of expertise, and I don’t intend to suggest in writing this that I have any sort of training in psychology.

When I thought about it a bit more, I decided that I could approach it from the point of view of language because this is one of my key areas of interest.

Language is a very powerful tool. As parents, we need to be especially careful about how we wield it.

Anyone who has ever visited my blog will know I love all sorts of picture books. It’s a bit of an obsession. However, there’s a classic picture book that I loved as a child that I refuse to read to my own children.

In “There’s a Hippopotamus On My Roof Eating Cake”, the little girl protagonist who tells the story from her own point of view is talking about everyone sitting down to dinner and the food that they are eating. She says: “Mummy is on a diet. She eats lettuce, tomato and cheese.”

What disturbs me about this line, other than the fact that lettuce, tomato and cheese are relegated to “diet food” rather than just being normal food that you would eat everyday, is the casual way the diet is mentioned. It implies that this Mummy character has been on diets before and it is no strange thing. It requires no more mention or context. Mummy is on a diet. Obviously.

The language that we choose and use can have a profound impact on our children and their own developing body image. Let’s try to make it a positive impact!

Talking About Food

Try to think of ways that you can educate your child about making healthy choices without labelling food as “good” or “bad”. If you do choose to use those words consider what they mean to your child. In what other contexts do you use those words?

Bad manners. Big bad wolf. Bad food. Bad girl. Bad boy.

Kids are still trying to make sense of language. If you use words that are tied to particular judgements or emotions to describe food, you are potentially tying the food to those emotions too. I ate too much cake at that party. Cake is a bad food. I am bad.

This is clearly problematic. On the flip side, if you tie “good food” to moral virtue you are creating a similar problem, not least because if your child does accept this teaching and eats only the good foods their whole life, they may turn into an irritatingly self-righteous adult who posts several-a-day Instagram updates about their kale smoothies. But, more dangerously, if they stray from the good food path, they may again internalise those messages and view themselves as being not good.

This leads me to my next point, which is more directly Talking About Your Child.

Talking About Your Child

When I took Pickles in for his routine 18 month checkup, the nurse told me that he was too skinny for his age. She gave me a horrifying pamphlet in which the causes of his “failure to thrive” were likely to be parental neglect, poverty, or some sort of medical condition. Se told me to put him on a high fat, high calorie diet, with no more direction than that. Eventually, after a couple of weeks of stress, we got in to see a specialist paediatrician who did thorough developmental testing and said he was at least at the right level in all areas, and well ahead in most. He said it was clear from the moment that Pickles walked in the door that he was a bright, healthy, active kid and that the best advice he could give was never to go back to that nurse again.

I was relieved. Yet, somehow, something had shifted.

Suddenly he was talked about as the skinny kid; the kid who needed to be fattened up. Despite my efforts not to use these types of labels, perhaps because my attention had been so stressfully drawn to it, I now noticed how many people commented on his size in front of him.

He’s not too bothered about it at this stage in his life. Mostly because it means people are more generous with treats. What concerns me is that as his identity forms, that is becoming a part of it at such a young age. My name is Pickles. I love running and jumping and digging in the garden. I love books and dinosaurs and trucks and singing and dancing. I am helpful. I am thoughtful. I am a big brother. I am a skinny kid. I shouldn’t be so skinny.

In a similar way, I’ve often heard people talking in an offhanded way about children as chubby or even fat. Generally it is said in an affectionate way – look at those chubby little cheeks, I just want to squeeze them – but kids are sponges, absorbing it all. I’m not suggesting we cease talking like this at all, but I do think we need to be more careful about the language we are using.

Research has shown even pre-school age children expressing dissatisfaction with their bodies. We need to be really conscious of the seemingly innocuous comments we make about our children. And about ourselves, which brings me to my final point.

Talking About Yourself

At this time of year we are bombarded with advertising about the New Years Resolutions you should adopt to make you a better you. And a better you inevitably is someone who looks different than the current you.

I happen to think that a resolution to adopt a healthier lifestyle can often be a good thing. However, it comes back again to the language that we use and the motive. Think about the words you are using to describe yourself, and why. Do you really think losing a bit of weight, or bulking up, will make you a better person?

When you talk about yourself in negative terms, your child is likely to take all of that onboard. They will accept it as normal. They too will think that there is virtue in a particular image. If they don’t meet that image, they may get trapped in a similar cycle of negativity.

I wrote a poem about this point, which I wanted to share to finish off this post. But before I go, I want to wish you all a happy new year, and to thank Julie for inviting me to be part of this series. I look forward to reading the other posts.

Mirror girl

The Girl In The Mirror

In the mirror is a girl
Who’s quite a lot like you.
She has your eyes, your hair, your smile;
Your sense of humour too.

She’s watched you closely everyday –
She’s listened and she’s learned –
While you were speaking right to her,
And when your back was turned.

From you she’s picked up what to eat
And how to move about.
But also other little things;
Those inner shades of doubt.

Does she wonder what they’ll think,
Or if she’s good enough?
Creeping down the family tree
Comes all that kind of stuff.

If you and she are so alike
As all around concur.
It follows that what’s said of you
Is also said of her.

So call out those who put you down,
And those who speak untrue.
But even more, be sure to check
The barbs that come from you.

When she looks into the mirror
And sees her mother there,
Here’s hoping she’ll be glad to see
Your eyes, your smile, your hair.


A Fond Farewell

I’ve been busy trying to be not busy. A nice couple of weeks of no computers and mainly no phone. It has been glorious.

I think it’s going to take me a little while to ease back into the blog. I considered not returning but my husband convinced me that I’d miss it and I think he’s right.

It was nice though for a time for it to be just the sun and the sea and me. That time was the blink of an eye as I briefly lay on my towel and imagined I was at the beach on my own. Then I immediately worried that in that second the children had both scurried away from my husband straight towards the sea so I snapped back to the reality of holidaying with very small people.

They loved it. It was amazing. But beach holidays are certainly less relaxing when your children are on an eternal quest towards the ocean. And rather than being tired at the end of a day at the beach, it was as if they were fitted with solar batteries that charged up during their days in the sun.

Coming home was sad, but a relief!

I hope everyone has been able to enjoy some time with family and friends over the festive period. Happy 2016!


A Fond Farewell

Farewell sand. So long sea.
Goodbye fish and chips for tea.

Farewell beach. So long sun.
Goodbye crashing waves of fun.

Farewell rest. So long dreams.
Goodbye strawberry ice creams.

But wait. When did we have time to dream,
When long days messed with our routine?

When little people woke too soon,
Excitement bounding in the room.

When every calming seaside stroll,
Was marked by vigilant patrol.

Though every cheerful toothy smile,
Made lack of sleep more than worthwhile.

And I can’t wait until next year
To live again this festive cheer.

As much as I would love to stay,
Sometimes home’s the holiday.