When my husband woke up on Sunday he found me sitting in front of my computer bawling. Which is not entirely unusual, so he calmly (while probably desperately trying to avoid rolling his eyes) said, “What’s going on?”
And I explained how I’d been going through the little one’s baby book, frantically calculating his BMI at every stage of development and I was certain now that although I’ve fed him a lot of healthy food whenever he’s wanted, somehow I'd malnourished him, he’s too little and now he’s doomed to a midlife fraught with chronic illness. And it’s all my fault.
Now, it’s not news that my little one is… well… little. He was a respectable eight pound baby at birth, but it was all downhill after that. He did grow, but slowly. Case in point, I just realized on his third birthday that he’s only grown two inches and gained a pound and a half over the last year. I have no idea what’s “normal,” but that doesn’t sound good to me. For Gods sake I can gain a pound and a half in like two minutes if I set my mind to it.
He gained so slowly as a baby and toddler that the poor thing has been stuck with thousands of needles in order to determine that he’s not anemic, his thyroid is healthy and so on. And the doctor would always say, “Well, he has chubby cheeks, he’s smart, he’s developmentally ahead of the game and there’s nothing medically wrong with him… I guess he’s just small.” And I believed her, and now look… a new study that assures me that being thin prior to the age of two is a serious risk factor in the development of disease.
So I said to my husband, “I think I’m going to forbid him from eating fruit or vegetables anymore.” Because seriously, the kid diets. I’m not kidding. He’ll eat a little bread… unless there’s butter on it. He’ll eat some meat, it’s true, but cheese? Forget it. He might eat a little pasta, but only if there are no broccoli or tomatoes available to eat instead. And low-calorie salsa is fine, but guacamole? Sorry, too fattening. The only fat he allows on his plate is some olive oil. And what about juice… a.k.a. pure, unadulterated sugar? Um, no thanks, he’ll just have a glass of water if it’s all the same to you.
Bur really, I’m exaggerating a little here. He does eat. All the time. In fact, there’s no ruining the kid’s appetite. If I set a plate of food on the table at any time of the day, he stops what he’s doing and comes running to eat. And he exclaims, “Oh thank you Mama for getting us some dinner!” As if he hasn’t eaten in a week.
And when I look at him during his swimming lessons, I feel so self-conscious, like everyone at the pool is looking at him and wondering if I’m one of those abusive lunatics who keeps her kid locked in a closet and feeds him nothing but grits. He’s very skinny. His arms are all spindly like a miniature Angelina Jolie and his ribs protrude from all angles. And no, he doesn’t have worms… I’ve already made the doctor verify. (And no, she hasn’t suggested I commit myself to some outpatient therapy, why do you wonder?)
As much as our culture obsesses over being thin, there’s something very disturbing about looking at people who are too thin. When I see a person who is so fat as to be unattractive, I might think, Gee, lay off the Oreos already (like I’m thinking right now as I look at my own thighs). But when I see someone who’s struggling with anorexia, I literally have to avert my eyes, because they just look too close to death for comfort. And that’s why I worry so much about my skinny little boy. He looks a-week-with-the-stomach-flu away from death to me sometimes. And yet he eats nonstop, rarely gets sick and can beat the living crap out of his big brother, who’s like twice as big as he is. Seriously, he’s really strong.
So then I go back to thinking, Well, I guess he’s just small. For a day. And then my husband and I came up with a brilliant “fatten him up” plan. I stopped serving fruit and vegetables to him to see if that would make him eat more high-caloric foods. Now that means I have to feed his big brother the same way (J is a normal/average size, by the way – and nothing pleases him more than a life without vegetables.). So it was nothing but eggs and butter, yogurt and meat, bread, sugar and potatoes, etcetera around here for two weeks.
The Little One stayed the same, but J outgrew the new shoes I’d just bought him a month ago. And he became constipated out of the blue for the first time in his life. I felt so guilty that I made my husband sneak J from the dinner table to feed him a bunch of fresh and dried fruit, while I stayed at the table assuring the little one that I was sorry but Mama’s all out of fruit today.
In other words, it was a failed experiment, and we’re back to healthy eating all around, but I’ve stopped letting the Little One have seconds on fruits and vegetables… which just seems so very weird. But what else can I do? Just stand idly by, knowing that I’m giving him a heart attack in fifty years? Wait, let’s not talk about that, my poor husband has had enough with the crying for one day.