I’ve been a little preoccupied with my child’s weight, to the point of scouring new ways to protein- and calorie-boost snacks. A larger serving of scrambled eggs at breakfast. A protein bar for a snack. An extra slice of turkey in the sandwich. A bowl of cereal after school. An apple and a scoop of ice cream for dessert.
But would I be doing this if it were my daughter?
I had to stop and think about that one…and clearly I am still thinking about it. My son, Corban, has a slighter build, and right now is almost the same height and weight as his younger brother, Elias. I’m fairly certain that if a growth spurt doesn’t happen in the next few weeks, the two will be sharing pants and shirts, which makes it easier for me.
But we noticed this summer that Corban was noticing that he was smaller, not just shorter, than his friends. He voiced some concern about being shirtless at the pool (thank goodness swim shirts make being wet and in the sun for hours a wee bit safer) and about changing in front of other boys for gym class.
He was worried about being too small, too skinny.
As his mother I’m worried about nutrition being a contributor (we’ll suspend issues of genetics for now) to his small-ish frame and worried that this awareness was contributing to his reluctance to try different sports. So I did what any worried, parenting-out-of-my-own-issues parent would do. Protein-packed snacks and frequent offers of said snacks? No problem.
But for no reason other than my own neuroses did I stop the other afternoon after straightening up the protein-packed pantry and ask my husband, “Do you think I would be trying to increase protein- and calorie-loads if this were Bethany and not Corban?”
I remember when Bethany was a toddler who downed whole milk as if we had a dairy farm in our backyard. Family members scolded us for feeding her whole milk because “that will make her fat”. I bristled and you can imagine my polite, pursed half-smile and reply.
Those relatives never said anything about Corban or Elias getting fat on whole milk.
But my kids aren’t toddlers anymore. My unscientific observations after three kids and six nieces and nephews are that baby fat is cuter on boys a whole lot longer than on girls and that any baby fat that lingers is written off faster for boys than for girls.
The world is, however, changing. Body image issues are equal opportunity as young boys see youngish men flaunt photoshopped six packs and pecs. How do I know? Because my boys noticed what hours of yoga and running did to my arms this summer.
“Mom, look at your arms! You look like a man!” Corban exclaimed. He proceeded to tell Peter that Mommy was stronger because Mommy had bigger muscles. (For the record, Peter is and most likely will always be stronger, but for now my arm muscles are more defined. And he and I talked to all of the kids about health, exercise, what strength and health look like for men and women of different body types and other fun conversations during quality family moments.)
So as one who often writes about women fitting into and the redefining the world of men, I felt it necessary to hit the pause button.
If it were Bethany and not Corban with a very low BMI, would I be packing the pantry with nutrition bars?
Probably not. Don’t you think trying to make C bigger would be the cultural equivalent of trying to make B smaller? Either way the standard is what the media sets to some extent.
My brother is a few inches taller than me (at most) and at least 35 lbs lighter. He went through a period of self consciousness in late high school and hired a trainer at the gym (not for many hours per week though since he had little money to pay for one). I’ve noticed that a lot of Asian American men with slighter figures also have this type of self consciousness. Being a small or thin male who does not appear “strong”is hard in our society.
BTW, I am just answering the question, not saying I think it’s wrong that you are “bulking him up.” Protein snacks sound like a healthy option and I have two low BMI kids so I understand.
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