I am an emotional eater. I think I come by this honestly. My mother was also an emotional eater. I’m not blaming my mother because I don’t think she taught me to eat emotionally, but I think I inherited the propensity from her.

However, I’m afraid I have taught my children to eat emotionally. To eat when you’re sad, eat when you’re bored–especially to eat when you’re bored, which is a big, big problem. I myself prefer to eat when I’m sad, nervous, tense or angry, but my kids prefer to eat when they’re bored, and I think it’s my fault. Quelle surprise, you’re thinking. Don’t I assume everything’s my fault? Well, no, not everything. Most things, but not everything. I do think this is my fault, though, and I’ll tell you why.

It might be a long story, but if you get bored, please don’t eat. Unless you’re really hungry. I just don’t want any more on my conscience, okay?

I remember giving my children snacks when they were younger to pacify them, to keep them occupied and out of my hair while I did something important. Not like taking-a-shower important. More like making-a-phone-call important or hearing-myself-think important. My short-lived freelance journalism career was sponsored by Cheerios. (That is not how I learned to hate the Cheerios. The Cheerios phobia is a congenital thing; I can’t explain it. But I digress.) I tried always to give them good food. I kept them away from Goldfish and French Fries as long as I could. But the fact is, when children are learning to feed themselves, the easiest foods for gum-mashing are those carbalicious cereals and crackers. I suppose that if I were a better mother, I would always have had steamed vegetables on hand. But who actually feeds their babies steamed veggies as a snack? Just shut your stupid face, I don’t want to hear it. Regardless of what I was feeding them, my kids would not be happy by themselves unless they were eating. I didn’t help the situation by caving in and feeding them, of course. And I think the origins of the problem may go back even farther than the Cheerios-on-the-high-chair phase.

So I breastfed all of my children because breast milk was the best food for babies, and if you weren’t giving your child the best, he or she might be at some disadvantage later in life. If any of you ladies don’t understand yet that this is a crock of baloney, let me help you out: it’s a crock of baloney. I know that now, but I didn’t know it then. All I knew then was that I didn’t know nothin’ ’bout raisin’ no babies and if it was in all the parenting manuals, it must be true. So I breastfed my babies, exclusively, for at least four months, because that was the recommendation. I tried to use a pacifier sparingly, I only supplemented with formula in an emergency because I didn’t want the babies to get nipple confusion and start refusing the breast and then my milk supply would go down and blah blah vicious cycle ending in lower IQs and bad immune systems–all the things I was warned would happen if I relied too much on these other sucking outlets. (I mean, they were outlets for the baby, not for me, but I was the one relying on them. Or trying not to. You know what I mean.)

Well. IT IS TO LAUGH. My children were never in any danger of learning to prefer pacifiers or bottles to the breast. HA. And HA. What they learned was that pacifiers don’t contain any sustenance worth sucking for and that formula should be refused even in an emergency. Really, it was hard to blame them for refusing the formula. Formula is perfectly good food, nutrition-wise, but it’s kind of an acquired taste. If you get used to it while young and hungry, you’ll probably continue to drink it even after your palate has experienced other options. If you’re not used to it, you’ll spit it out and think, “What the crap? Where’s my mom?”

So yes, I breastfed my kids a lot. When I got my first baby, I didn’t know what to do with her. I didn’t have a mother around to tell me anything, but would I even have listened to her if I had? She raised me, what the heck would she know? The books all said that babies had different cries to indicate different needs, but when your baby is crying so much for so long, the nuances tend to get lost. I tried to figure out the difference between the “I’m hungry” cry and the “I’m upset (about something else)” cry, but as far as I could tell, the only two cries my baby had were “I’m hungry” and “I’m upset (because you’re not feeding me).”

The thing is, she could very well have been hungry all the time. Both of my first two babies could have been genuinely hungry most of the time because in retrospect I understand that despite all the nursing I was doing, I was probably not producing enough milk. The experts always insist that if you nurse your babies often enough, you will make enough milk–period, end of story. IT’S NATURE. I understand now that some things interfere with nature–things like stress and sleep deprivation and depression–and no matter how often or how long you nurse or how much you pump, you will not be able to make enough milk to feed your baby to the point of satisfaction. Neither of my first two babies “failed to thrive,” but they didn’t get fat. You know how doctors will tease the mothers of fat babies by saying they must have cream in their breasts? How creepy is that, and yet I heard that story over and over again. No one would have said that creepy thing to me. I saw the milk I produced, and I’m pretty sure in retrospect that it was skim. But that’s not the point. The point is that I was feeding the babies constantly from the time they were born, so doesn’t it make sense that they would learn that food was happiness and contentment and they shouldn’t settle for anything less?

Which is why my children still have to eat all the time, although, thank God, I am no longer breastfeeding any of them? Maybe. What exactly am I saying? That my children are destined for a lifetime of obesity and I blame La Leche League? No. I mean, I wish I could, but no. I guess. I don’t know.

Technically, none of my children is obese. My oldest, however, is certainly overweight–not a controversial statement. She has never been a picky eater. She’s always eaten a variety of foods. That’s good. But she eats more than she needs to, and she isn’t as active as she ought to be. I think the same could have been said about me at that age, but unfortunately my daughter did not inherit my metabolism along with my propensity for eating and sitting more than one ought. Not that I am one of those super-skinny women who can eat anything they want and never gain weight, but my weight has always been reasonably stable. I live in fear of that luck running out someday, and perhaps the stress of that burns some calories, I don’t know. But I’m also about twenty times more active than my daughter. I have responsibilities and hobbies that require me to move around. She doesn’t. And as a result, she is carrying around about thirty extra pounds. I worry about it.

I’ve worried about it ever since she started gaining weight more quickly than she was getting tall–around third or fourth grade, I guess. I knew that she was already set apart from her peers because of her disability. I worried enough about her being “the weird girl”; I didn’t want to worry about her being “the weird fat girl.” Does this sound harsh to you? Does it seem like I’m catering to society’s expectations of what a (young) woman’s body should look like? My daughter isn’t getting any taller. She may eventually, but it isn’t happening yet, and in the meantime she keeps gaining weight. I watched my mother struggle and suffer with obesity for the better half of her life. I don’t have any memories of her not being fat and not hating her body. Princess Zurg has enough problems; she doesn’t need a weight problem on top of it.

On the other hand, she has enough problems; she doesn’t need a (relatively thin) mother nagging her about her weight problem.

I don’t want to be one of those mothers. At the same time, I really want her to lose weight. I want it for her sake, but I don’t want to give her a complex about it, either. Haven’t I screwed up enough on the food front already? I’ve talked to her about it, and she knows she needs to lose weight, and she knows that she needs to exercise more. I’m trying to make it something we do together, but it’s hard enough to find time in one’s own schedule, let alone trying to coordinate two schedules. Really, six schedules, because there’s mine and then there’s my husband and four children who all need varying levels of my attention and assistance during the hours that PZ is at home. Yes, it’s just a matter of making it a priority, but so far I’m just frustrated. So frustrated I could eat a cookie. But I won’t! (It’s the principle of the thing.)

So for those of you who were wondering, I have crafted a solution to my last posted dilemma. We are jumping PZ’s therapy appointment around until a new, non-Wednesday after-school slot opens up on a regular basis, so PZ can go to her Girls Club on Wednesday. This week it means that tomorrow I will take Elvis to his social group (speech therapy) from 4:30 to 5:30 and somehow get him home and PZ to Freaking Tigard by 6:15. I haven’t figured out yet how exactly this will happen, what with traffic and whatnot. But that’s this week. Maybe next week will be easier. All I can say is that this club had better change her life. Actually, I’d settle for her liking it. That’s not the point of this paragraph. The point of this paragraph is that when I was filling out the paperwork, I saw a note that said, “All students [emphasis theirs] participating in after-school activities will receive free supper at 3:40 pm as part of a federally funded program.”

I mean…really?

1. Who needs to eat supper at 3:40 in the afternoon? Granted, I have no idea what “supper” entails. It could just be Goldfish crackers, for all I know, but that’s not the point. Who needs to eat “supper” at 3:40 in the afternoon when you’re going home in an hour anyway?

2. Not to wax all Newt Gingrich, let-the-orphans-clean-toilets-for-their-supper, but doesn’t this seem like a colossal waste of money? All children? For any children, I suppose it’s debatable, but for all children? Really?

And

3. Why does the school have to provide my daughter with more food that she doesn’t need? Why does it seem like everybody is giving my kids more food that they don’t need? Haven’t I done enough of that myself?

Which reminds me, I forgot to eat lunch.

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