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Does the Government Think Your Child is Fat?

I’m not a mom, but one thing I know is that most moms don’t really like advice from non-moms. When the rubber meets the road, the years I spent helping raise my siblings, working the church nursery, or even teaching in the classroom don’t compare to the experience. And I respect that. My bachelor of science degree in education doesn’t mean a thing when it comes to your child.

But what really confuses me is that many of those same moms seem perfectly fine with the government making major parenting decisions for them.

Have you heard about the state of Massachusetts sending home “fat letters” if they perceive that a ten-year-old is overweight? And, make no mistake, this is about perception. Weight is only one factor when it comes to health, especially for children. It makes little sense to categorize children purely by weight, for more than one reason.

One of the boys who got one of these letters talked to a reporter. If you watch the video, you can see that he is strong, fit, and healthy. Weight is just part of the picture. Each year, children across the country participate in the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. Even though it is still somewhat arbitrary, it’s a much better measure of a child’s fitness than just their weight.

Another thing that occurred to me as I was reading this story is that children experience growth spurts. It’s common for a child to suddenly develop a larger appetite and put on a little weight right before growing several inches taller. Taking a snapshot of a child’s weight means you might be looking at them right before a growth spurt. I wonder if anyone at the public health department knows what healthy growth looks like? (Who am I kidding? It’s the government, the only kind of growth they understand is raising taxes.)

What worries me the most, though, is that young people, especially girls, already have body-image issues. We live in a culture that proclaims a size 2 as the holy grail of beauty. While they claimed to have sent home letters to underweight children, too, there is certainly not the same stigma attached to it. I know that the reality of the world we live in is that some parents do not adequately care for their children. I understand that there are cases where parents are careless of their child’s safety, but this is a tiny exception to the rule of parents who want what’s best for their children and are doing the best they can.

Allie dancing

I loved dancing, though I was often teased about being fat.

It shouldn’t be the government’s place to tell a parent about their own child, and adding the recommendation to seek help from a pediatrician is just adding injury to insult. Doesn’t anybody remember how overburdened our health care system is? But that’s right! Now that “the government” (a.k.a. fellow taxpayers) wants to pay for our health, that gives them the right to control our bodies.

Does that seem right to you?

Well, I wanted to talk about the importance of recess in schools, but that will have to be a rant for another day. In the mean time, here is a picture of me at age nine. I was taking dance lessons, enjoyed recess, rode my bike, played outside with my sister, but preferred to sit and read more than anything else. I’ve always been tall; by age ten I was the tallest student in my school and taller than some of the teachers. I was always big for my age, but it wouldn’t have bothered me except that it bothered other people. If my school sent out “fat letters,” I would have gotten one, but I didn’t need one. My classmates told me I was fat all the time.

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4 thoughts on “Does the Government Think Your Child is Fat?

  1. Pingback: Let’s Move! Hangout: Pros and Cons | Femininely Conservative

  2. The Massachusetts situation is based on the BMI, which is insanely screwy. It would have us believe that NFL linebackers are obese and unhealthy, except you couldn’t be a pro LB if you really were. It looks at height and weight and doesn’t consider whether or not the bulk is fat or muscle. We know a guy who did bodybuilding during college, but the BMI would indicate he was hugely obese. My husband has taught me to ignore BMI articles in magazines. Yes, I’m overweight, but I don’t judge by BMI. I look at my weight and how well my jeans do up.

    The sad thing with the MA school study is that it hurts both boys and girls. The kid on the news obviously didn’t care that a letter said he was fat, but other kids could be more sensitive and be really hurt by it. Then you might have parents who wrestle with ED issues themselves and might not react well.

    It’s like the issues with the school meals. You can now only have so many calories a day, and many high school athletes aren’t happy with that limitation. If you bring food from home, it also has to conform to a certain standard.

    To be honest, these are the times I’m glad I’m not a parent!

    • You make such good points. Athletes have different nutritional needs, and it’s insane that the school can control what food a kid even brings from home. It’s also very true that parents growing up in our generation are likely to have those same issues.

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