There are moments in parenthood that defy words to describe them, and this must be one of those times, because all I have are the same three words:
Ellie, you’re ten.
See? It’s not enough to convey the gravity of this day. Ten is a decade. Ten years is roughly a third of my life. I thought time was linear, but now I know it’s a thousand tiny loops and whorls of living and remembering and living and remembering.
I remember when you were born; the memories are vivid in places, dull in others. Sometimes it feels like I went into labor yesterday, and today I’m sending you off to fourth grade.
I remember when you turned five, my proud kindergartener marching off to school; that was last year, right? You’re closer to college than you are to babyhood. When did that happen?
The other day you told me, “I’m a pre-teen now, Mama.”
Me, not fully awake. “Uh, no…not quite..”
“Yes, I am. Ten is double digits, but not a teenager, so that makes me a pre-teen.”
Well, when you put it that way…double digits it is. I am the mother of a pre-teen.
You are so big. When I hug you, it’s like I’m hugging a shorter-than-average adult. When you were tiny, I worried I’d break you; I couldn’t snuggle you without fearing I’d hurt you, couldn’t wrap my arms around you and give you a big bear squeeze, but now you’re solid. You take up space. You stand on your own.
You are *you*, and I can’t take credit for any of it, save for the clothes on your back and the food in your stomach (and maybe the constant singing–I’ll take credit for that). We made you out of a couple of wandering cells, and now we get to stand back and watch you become.
Yesterday you were a baby, today you are ten, and tomorrow I will have to literally look up to talk to you. That’s how fast the time flies.
Keep flying, Ellie. The ride is wild, but I can’t wait to see what comes next.
Gwen has been asking us for a kitten since she was five — really, since Nala passed away. At some point she latched onto the idea of a new pet and has not let go. I encouraged her to help us take care of the pets we have, and she has, but feeding and watering our elder cats is not the same. They don’t play, and they’re pretty firmly attached to the grownups.
A few weeks ago, Gwen gave us her Christmas wishlist:
It’s obvious she was hanging her hopes on Santa to make her kitten-loving dreams come true.
So maybe it was the giving spirit at work, or maybe Gwen just wore us down, but on Tuesday we picked up this four-month-old fluffball from the humane society.
So far, she’s pretty mellow for a kitten. She loves to snuggle, and she has the loudest purr I’ve ever heard. Her inner ear floofs are On Point and curl around her ears like fluffy halos.
We’re letting her adjust to the rest of the house and its inhabitants slowly. She really wants to be friends with the older cats, and they’re what I would call ambivalently tolerant — so basically, they’re cats.
The next challenge will be introducing her to the dog, but we’re waiting until she’s a bit more confident in her surroundings to do that.
And Gwen? She’s over the moon about her real baby cat. Christmas wish: granted.
I went on my first voluntary diet at 17, the summer before I went to college. I weighed 180 pounds at 5’5″, and my family doctor suggested counting calories; 1000 calories a day should be enough at my age and height, she said. Then I’d lose the extra weight.
I remember being distraught. It wasn’t the first time I’d thought of myself as “fat”, far from it. That happened in fourth grade at a class pool party, where I spent most of the time worrying about how my thighs looked in my bathing suit.
But it was the first time my shame had been laid out in medical terms, the first time it was implied this was something I could control, and the first time I felt an urgent need — no, an obligation — to fix my body.
My mom — having struggled with her own weight and wanting to help — gave me her Weight Watchers guidebook and promised to count calories along with me for moral support. The message: You don’t have to do this alone…but you should do it.
I don’t mean to single out my mom, because similar implications came from all sides. My dad, as I reached for a second helping: “Do you really need that?” My grandmother, brushing my hand away from the M&M bowl after dinner. The kid who sat behind me in sixth-grade homeroom and laughed: “Whoa, your arms are huge!”
I often wonder what my body would look like if I hadn’t started that first diet. If the inevitable failure of that and all the ones that came after had not steadily added pounds to my belly, my thighs, my arms, my legs. Had I ignored my well-meaning doctor’s prescription and carried on with my 180-pound self.
Did feeding the fire of shame give me the body I have today? Would ignoring it have done any good? Or would a love of food and a specific genetic makeup have made this body inevitable? I’ll never know, but it’s something I think about a lot lately.
Ellie entered fourth grade this year. It hasn’t escaped me that she’s developing. She has a tummy. She has a butt. She has thick thighs.
She’s perfect, and I am loathe to let a doctor or anyone else tell her otherwise.
She’s unselfconscious about her body now, but I wonder when she’ll start to look at other girls and compare. I wonder how it will shake out the first time a classmate points out her round belly and makes a cruel comment; if she’ll let it roll off her shoulders, or if she’ll internalize it for the rest of her life.
I know there is only so much I can do. I know my words will fall on deaf ears; that it doesn’t matter how many times I tell her she’s brainy and witty and capable, she’ll eventually hear whispers about her body — from peers, from doctors, from media, from herself — and how it doesn’t match up to some unattainable standard of what a body should look like.
I can use the word “fat” as a simple adjective, I can call myself fat without a hint of shame, and I can dance around in my fat body in front of my daughters and know that my attempts to normalize my right to enjoy this body won’t be enough to stem the tide of conflicting messages.
They already aren’t enough. The kids jiggle my tummy and note my roundness, watching me carefully for some sign of hurt or rebuke, giggling as though they’re getting away with something naughty. The pediatrician’s eyes widened when I used the f-word at Ellie’s last appointment, her hands clenching as though she wanted to clap them over my mouth.
Of all the things my body can do, it can’t physically shield my kids from a world that, at best, misunderstands and, at worst, despises fat people.
I don’t know how this plays out, as Ellie rockets toward pre-teen-hood and Gwen follows not far behind. Even if they dodge the proverbial genetic bullet and grow up to wear straight sizes, they’ll still have a fat mom. In looking through this warped lens, will they come to see me with disgust, shame, or embarrassment?
(Maybe I worry for nothing, but being fat has dominated my inner monologue for twenty-five years; why stop now?)
I wouldn’t be me if I hadn’t approached my body like a battle and lost, over and over again. I have no regrets, but the relief in letting go of the fight has been so sweet.
The world says I need to keep fighting. The world says “maybe try just one more diet, this time will be different”, but that’s a lie. I hope my kids see through it sooner than I did.
What a week! From the guest speakers to an advanced development class to meeting new people to Harry Potter world to playing Pokémon to touring Disney Springs, it’s hard to say what was the best part of this year’s Automattic Grand Meetup.
I tried to split my time between my new team and my old team when I wasn’t attending class or various presentations and sessions. These events have gotten so huge that it takes some serious effort to find and hug every person I know over the course of the week, let alone have meaningful conversations.
I made new friends raiding in Pokémon Go, and spent most of my downtime wandering around Disney Springs. I had a great one-on-one with my new squad lead at the Star Wars VR experience, and now I think all one-on-ones should involve shooting Stormtroopers. XD
Automattic arranged a special event dinner at Harry Potter World at Universal Studios mid-week. That in itself was impressive, but the afterparty remained my favorite. Epcot fireworks, the ever-present photo booth, and the Automattician-powered band was a great way to round out the week. Just when you think your colleagues couldn’t get any more brilliant, they get on stage and blow you away with musical talent.
And of course, there are the pictures; my favorite souvenirs: