“Mommy, I need a different pair of jeans. These don’t fit,” my tiny human complains, sucking in his tummy, and trying to snap his pants.
I know. I know his pants don’t fit. Inside, I’m dying, shedding tears I can’t release. Demons are screaming in my head, but I shoo them. I kick them away. I rail at them to go back where they belong: deep into my subconscious, where I placed them years ago. “It’s okay, Son Son,” I begin, slapping on a smile to beat the inner turmoil, “we’ll pull them up a bit higher today. They definitely didn’t fit last week, but they button pretty well today.” I finish my claim, snapping the button, stroking his hair, and pulling him into a huge hug.
My son. My tiny tot. My precious angel. He’s battling a demon, too, but he doesn’t know it yet. He’s fighting the monster that is weight, with his mommy’s help. And, unfortunately, the longer Mommy helps, the more she struggles. I watch my tiny son as he runs, jumps, leaps, and hops. Words from the pediatrician flow through my mind.
“Your child is mildly obese. You need to stop feeding him crap. He needs to stop drinking soda, eating heavy starches like pasta, macaroni and cheese, and pizza. He can’t eat ice cream, candy, and sweets in abundance. You’re creating a situation that he’s going to be living with for the rest of his life. You’re making your child unhealthy.” She looks up at me, scolding me, belittling my worth as a mother, derailing everything I stand for in terms of healthy eating and healthy living.
No! No, I’m not! I scream in my head. Instead, I give her the best Shut The Hell Up with your projected criticisms look, and respond, “I’ll speak with his father about the food habits he has away from me.”
And I do. I send off a message begging my ex-husband to work with me. I tell him about the conversation with the pediatrician. I ask him to help me help our son get healthy. I ask him to co-parent, to stand with me, to give me support over this area in which I struggle.
I am struggling. I’m alone in this. I need help from the only other person who has my child throughout the week.
What response do I get, in return? “You’re overreacting, Jaime. He’ll grow into it.”
Here I am, on my knees, groveling. I’m pulling at his hypothetical robes, asking for a helping hand; a hand that will work with me for the betterment of our child’s future. What I get, in return, is a flyswatter. It’s almost as if he’s saying, “Down, woman. Don’t bother me with your trivialities. Seek help elsewhere.”
I go to the preschool, and ask about their food menu. It’s not great. The head director admits it’s not the healthiest food they can provide, but it meets standards. I read it over, debating packing food for lunches every day. Then I make a mental note to start Pinning healthy lunches. I grew up on peanut butter and jelly, with a side of apple, and a fruit roll-up, and I believe that to be a healthy lunch.
Several more mental notes get added to the hysteria that is my mind: healthy dinner ideas, healthy breakfast ideas, caloric intake of five year olds, fun exercises for children.
We work for a month, eating healthy, exercising and playing like loons. In my head, I feel like I am making a difference. In reality, his pants don’t fit. Panic sets in again, and the demons rise up, taunting me. My efforts aren’t working; I’m failing. I’m a failure at Momdom, and my child is going to grow up with a slew of medical problems–problems that already run on my side of the family. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, hypertension, heart disease.
Plugging his numbers into the computer heightens my mania. It heightens my fear. At 3 feet, 11 inches, he weighs 58 pounds. He’s in the 96th percentile for his weight, and is considered obese.
Obese. The word rips through me, wrenching me apart from the inside. This time, when the demons mock, tears leak, edging their way down my cheeks. I send another text to his father, pleading my case. I throw myself onto the ground, prostrate, begging for mercy; begging for my child. “I’m worried about Tiny. His new pants are not fitting. I’ve been monitoring his portion controls, and making sure he’s getting a balanced diet when I have him. I am pushing for more outside play, but it’s hard with my work schedule. I am fighting a losing battle, and I need you to work with me. My meager efforts to keep him healthy means nothing if I cannot get help. And if we do “splurge” over here, with an unhealthy meal, I feel guilty. I know he’s not eating healthy with you, and his school admits to not having the healthiest meals. I need help. I have to have your help in this. I plugged in his numbers, and they confirmed my fears. I know I have said all of this before, and it hurts when you blow me off. He should not be gaining weight every week. I’m worried for his health.”
Yes, I babble. I babble for the safety and well-being of my child’s health. I babble from worry, and I babble for understanding. What I want to say is, “Just DO it. Even if you don’t agree, because I’m the one saying it, just DO it.”
But, I can’t. So, I babble.
His response floors me. He smacks me down. Again. He doesn’t have time for the ravings of a lunatic woman. He can’t be bothered by his shrew of an ex-wife, even in regards to Tiny Tot’s nutrition. “Hopefully,” he writes, negating all doubt, fear, and struggle in my text, “when he starts running around and playing basketball, that will help him level off.”
Shut up, and stop bothering me with banalities, I read, floored. This is it; this is my final answer. I’m alone. I’m alone in my battle to help my child overcome a weight issue he’s not even begun to understand. I’m fighting the demons of my past, and the demons of my child’s future, without help.
Why do I need help? Why do I need support? Why can’t I do this alone?
Because of the demons that mock me. They taunt me. They sit in their chains, cackling their heads off, telling me of my worthlessness and failure. No, I’m not talking about tiny people living in my head. I promise I’m not schizophrenic, or insane. … I hope. I’m referring to the ghosts of my eating disorder. They are chained, but they strain at their chains, baiting me with promises of power and control. Implementing diet strategies, enforcing added exercise regiments, and restricting food beckons them forward. It gives them strength, which–in turn–brings weakness in me.
I really want control. I really want to be able to help my child, alone, by giving into the eating disorder that beckons. What’s more, I know it. I battle the sweet whispers of ED every day. I deny him power; I deny him control. Because, if he wins, if he gets power, I lose. I’m no longer Tiny Tot’s strong, capable mom the second I give into his suggestions for gaining the control. The control that I so desperately need in this situation.
So, for today, I am successful. I am resilient in recovery, and have been for ten years. (Sidebar: TEN YEARS! WOOHOO!) BUT, let me tell you, if Satan exists, it’s in him. This is why I keep demanding, begging, and groveling for my ex-husband to help me. This is why I want him to hear my plight.
This is why I fight for my child’s health.
It feels like the longer I fight this battle over my child’s weight, the lonelier I feel in parenting. I feel a sense of overwhelming, irreconcilable failure, because I don’t know how to “fix” this problem. Yet, I do know what to do: keep plugging on the best that I know how, because–some day–it might work.
Daddy may be candy, soda, pizza, burgers, ice cream, and chocolate, but I’m mom.
Mom is pretty powerful, all on her own.