From The Mom of The Fat Kid
I never imagined all the new emotions a child could bring into my life.
Primal love, fear, protection, and pain---pain exponentially greater than any I've experienced. And I'm not talking about childbirth. I'm talking about feeling the pain from your child's hurt feelings, embarrassment, humiliation, disappointment, and simple growing up. That pain is worse than any I've ever experienced.
I never thought when I had a child, he would struggle with weight issues.
I never thought my child, as a result, would look at himself as anything other than what I told him he was-Perfect. He is caring, funny, loving, and kind.
But we both learned in his first year of school, kids don't point out the caring kids. They point out the different kids.
And my son is different. At 9, over 5 feet tall and 150 pounds, he stands out.
As an only child, he yearns for social interaction. Excited and with what seemed to be an eternal grin on his way to his first day of school, he didn't meet the new friends he'd dreamed of; he met "name-calling". He was made fun of, and his dreams fell short. Instead of new best friends, he had taunters. He came home asking if he looked 'normal' and 'why am I fat?'. His feelings were hurt, so hurt....and mine hurt for him. So he tucked his head in his shell, and became shy. Self- conscious.
And my heart hurt.
As my son went through first grade, he was met with the same type of judgment, but with a lot of reassuring and self-esteem building from his family, he walked in like he wasn't different, he was happy, he was funny, and he made friends. They weren't all friends, but he focused on the good people. His smile returned.
And my heart smiled.
With new friends, he was a little more confident. When kids pointed out that he was bigger, he started embracing that....how? Well, not in the way you'd think....If a kid a foot shorter than you called you a name, you may imagine with this new realization of size, that you could simply scare the mac n cheese out of him and that would be that. No....not my son.
He decided to use his size for good.
He became the self-appointed bully-stopper. He stuck up for other kids-- he stopped bullies in their tracks. He'd walk right up to them while they were name calling, and say with firmness and size awareness "You need to stop".
But that's not all...not only does he ask them to stop, he asks them to imagine themselves in the other kid's situation. He actually tries to teach these bullies how to open their minds and change their perspective. My mind? Blown.
And he did this without prompting, he CHOSE how he would deal with life.... and therein lies the proof, that perfection comes in many packages.
He just told me something last week as we were driving down the road--he said it in passing, not looking for praise, "Oh, I started a new anti-bullying group to help kids being bullied online" he said nonchalantly. He went on to tell me he reads the chat rooms to find out who is being bullied, invites those kids to join his group, and then addresses the bullies directly by asking them how they would like it if others treated them that way, and for them to imagine a world where they had no friends-- and even strangers bullied them online.
And my heart swelled with pride.
While this may not 'change the world' at least he is making small changes. He keeps his focus on helping others, he doesn't want to be viewed as a burden or a different kid, he wants to be viewed as a hero. He's always wanted to be a hero.
And although I know my son is filled with more love and compassion than I could have imagined, this little soul never ceases to amaze me.
My perfect little 9 year old.
But that's not the end of the story, no. Kids still say things to him from other grades, or comments are made at the park playground, and when he tells me, he looks down, his eyes tear up, and he looks to me for that reassurance that those kids are the ones with something wrong with them. And they are. So I remind him.
And it is not only children who have been guilty of bullying my son, directly or indirectly....Parents and adults have made plenty of assumptions and comments about his lifestyle, his weight, and his habits.
And my heart hurts. It defends.
It breaks for him and the judgment cast upon him.
Even though multiple tests, metabolic panels, and doctor visits have all diagnosed him with the same thing: He's just going to be a big tall adult, and his body is in preparation for a 6'4" future. That's it. No excessive junk food or laziness. He tries just as hard in soccer, baseball, wrestling, karate, and now football. He actually has to try harder. Because his little 9 year old joints are taking on more than twice the weight of other kids.
He's usually always last in the races. He stares at the backs of thinner kids as he picks his legs up to catch up. His face will turn red before other kids, as he huffs and puffs, he checks the faces of the other kids as he thinks "are they staring at me, do I look like a fat kid?" But he doesn't quit. He keeps going...and as I watch him struggle, I hold back tears and I hold myself back from running onto the field and hugging him, and telling him how proud I am. How proud I am to have a child who could easily give up, but refuses to.....
I don't want him to necessarily be in first place, I just don't want him to be in last place. I just want him to feel a little success so he has that fuel to keep going...I watch as I see his little eyes darting back and forth, taking in his surroundings, hoping his efforts are recognized. I see him push harder, and this year, I have seen something I haven't seen before: Other people, strangers even, feeling like I do --FOR him.
The children on his football team embrace him. They put their arms around him and reassure him he's in the right spot, he's got the right play. They drop back and run with him when he falls behind. They see his efforts and want him to know that. They truly care. How beautiful this is to watch----to see and to be a part of.
I see adults, not watching the fastest kid on the team, no...I see them watching my son and silently rooting for the underdog. Watching him make it around the field a little faster than last week. I see them watch him and then look at me...living in my world for a moment to see what it would be like to be the "Mom of the Fat Kid" . And I can tell you....it's wonderful. Because in this experience, we have seen the bad side of people, sure....but it has let us see the unwavering GOOD in people. The ones who look past the physical and look for the intentions, the effort, and the dedication of someone facing an obstacle they have no control over. The ones who take the time to reach out and connect with another person because they have compassion. They sympathize and they want to see him succeed.
And my heart smiles.
Being the Mom of the Fat Kid has let me see the good in my SON. He didn't have to deal with his obstacle the way he has--turning it into an opportunity to help others and push himself. And when he looks at himself in the mirror and cries, I cry too. When he hurts, I hurt too. But I always reassure him, he was built like this for a reason. And he continues to search for this reason by believing in himself and others.
And so do his coaches. You would think a coach would receive my son as an athlete and think "Oh great, here's the fat slow kid" but they don't see him like that. They see a wrecking ball....with a little polishing and belief he is becoming that. They believe in him, they call out his victories, they use his effort as an example to the other kids, you know-the "normal ones". They put him on a pedestal not because he's the fat kid getting a participation trophy--no, because he earns it---he is the kid who is trying as hard as he possibly can to use what he has to be the best he can be...and he never gives up on himself, because his coaches don't.
My son has every reason to have given into excuses and give up. But he never did, and he never will. Because of the good in him, and the good in other people. That's what he chooses to see. And maybe that's exactly why others see in him, what he sees in them. Goodness.
As a woman, I've struggled with body image issues all my life. All of it. I would never wish that on anyone, let alone my child...and here, God put this perfect little soul in a little bigger package, likely for me to see that imperfect IS perfect, you just have to find the things you truly find beauty in.
I have such gratitude for each and every child, parent, coach, and person who has seen the beauty in my son. Who has taken time to get to know him, not his size...because I truly believe without their support, his light wouldn't shine as brightly.
So, as my son travels on this journey of self-discovery, I now realize I am not on this road with him simply because I'm his mother, but because I needed this experience too. So if you ever wondered what it is like to be the Mom of the Fat Kid, it's pretty effing awesome.
The Mom of the Awesome Kid