One by one, the kids trickled into the small room, shoes off, yellow sheets in hand. It was Health Screening Day at the school, and a crowd of volunteers gathered and recorded heights and weights, and administered vision tests.
I stood off to the side, writing the numbers on the yellow sheets, then entering them in the computer. It was my first time at this gig and I watched the kids from the corner of my eye. Some of them had zero inhibitions about having their height measured and stepping on the scale. Others approached with a let’s-get-this-over-with attitude. We were told from the beginning not to announce any weights, especially with the older kids, and I could 100 percent identify with the reason for that. I was mortified anytime anyone had an inkling of my weight as a tween/young adult.
We saw kids of all shapes and sizes, no two of them alike. But they did have one thing in common. I’ll get to that.
Heights were measured in inches only, so we had to calculate a bit, which meant the heights were often spoken out loud.
“Am I tall?” some of the kids asked. “How many feet is that?” “How tall am I?”
We answered as best we could with encouragement and truth. But it was the questions and comments after the scale that had my heart breaking.
“Is that good?” “Is it okay?” “This scale weighs me five pound heavier.” (That last comment has to be something they’ve heard at home, right?)
Weight. It’s such a tricky thing. And it wasn’t just the girls asking. Some of the boys hopped off the scale and announced their numbers, even though they had been told not to. One boy was relieved that he could still play football.
A lot of the girls were silent. If I could read the silence, though, I know what some of the thoughts were. Because I was a girl whose number was always too big compared to her friends, too embarrassing to repeat. Even now, at my heaviest apart from pregnancy, I can hardly stand to admit the number out loud.
With a prepubescent daughter, though, it’s long past time for me to tackle these issues head on. Because she is strong and beautiful and her body is so different than mine was at that age, but the words and attitudes and pressure are just as damaging. Maybe more so.
But that’s not what I came here to talk about. Not really. There is another question behind all those questions that had nothing to do with height and weight. It takes many forms, but at the heart of it all, this is the question I think they were really asking:
Am I enough?
Read the rest of this post at Putting on the New, where I blog on the 12th of each month.