Thursday, December 11, 2008

Next stop: Nice List

The Christmas anticipation has been a little hard on Evan. I'm not sure he knows what exactly he's anticipating, but he knows he's supposed to be excited and is behaving accordingly. His emotional thermostat is set somewhere between Irrationally Exuberant and Total Friggin' Meltdown.

If we all live until the 25th it might be considered a Christmas Miracle.

This is probably why I was so receptive the other day when he was in a quiet, cuddly mood. And he said, in his best Eddie Haskell impersonation, "Mommy, how is your body getting so thin? Look at you-- you're so skinny! I love you!"

Mind you, I am at least emotionally intact enough (most days, anyway) that neither my body image nor my self-worth are vulnerable to a four-year-old's perception of me. Still, he made me smile.

He's not wrong. Those of you who know me in real life (you lucky dogs!) know that, at about five feet 10 inches and a size four, or even a two, I am relatively thin. And perhaps he's remembering last Christmas season, when I was terminally pregnant and approximately the size of our minivan. So, objectively, he's right.

And I do not want to make too big a deal out of his comment.

But still, this has not been sitting entirely well with me. Why did he choose to comment on this? Where did he learn that this is a compliment? Why does he think that my thinness makes me worthy of his love, or at least the statement of his love?

Again, those of you who know me IRL (oh, your good fortune never ends!) know about my physical difference, my anomaly. (Those of you who don't know me: I should probably get around to explaining this sometime soon.) I grew up looking different than most people, and far different than any social construct of beauty. I'm really not terribly sensitive about it anymore, but I've learned a lot. For instance: value statements about physical traits are absolutely insubstantial. Criticisms or compliments, such comments miss the point. Ultimately they are empty. And I want my kids, eventually, to understand this.

(I also learned that adolescence absolutely sucks. But that's another post. Or maybe a novel.)

Evan was just happy the other day, conversing and practicing a social skill. No big deal. But still. He's already learning. Despite what Jeff and I attempt to model, he's absorbing these socially-enforced ideals of beauty and goodness and desirability. And it bothers me. Just a little. Just enough to let me know, as a parent, what I'm up against as I try to define the values I want my children to inherit.

However. He also called my dishwater-blonde hair "golden" the other day. "Mommy, your hair is beautiful and golden," he said. And it made me happy. I'm not immune. I just hope he's not doing this to get on Santa's Nice List....

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