A sweet, 8-year-old girl came to see me along with her mom. She was a beautiful child with long, dark black hair and piercing eyes that carried the wisdom of her ancients. She was rather quiet. And, yes. She was overweight and has already endured bullying by other children.
The mom, a tall, slender woman told me part of her child’s story. They have just returned back in the area after living for a year near San Antonio, Texas. I did not get a lot of the family’s history during this consult, partly due to the fact that not all can be disclosed in front of a child, but it was not difficult to glean that there were problems.
I learned that this child is the youngest of four children. Her oldest sister who is nineteen has a more full-bodied figure. The mom, is a loving parent and provides generally well-prepared foods and has nicely established boundaries on fast food and the watching of television. The child has no health problems. I did not, as I would write in my progress note, assess any significant dietary indiscretions.
The mom’s concern is that her daughter is not inclined to want to go out and play much and resists her mom’s offers to go exercise with her. They live in a cramped house in a difficult neighborhood.
This is not an environment for the outdoor spontaneous combustion of calories that should be the birthright of all our children. I learned that the girl enjoys eating and adores musicals, swimming and doing artwork. I knew I was in the company of a pleasant phlegmatic.
Together we discussed community resources, walking to school, school lunches and simple options for play. We addressed the preservation of her self-esteem which her mom already had a good handle on. I then looked into the deep eyes of this dear girl, deciding what to offer her that would be respectful of who she is. As always, and as I hope I am conveying in my stories, there is a deep responsibility in this task of balancing the societal scales, to honor the individual and the circumstances of their lives. And, I usually only have a few minutes to do so.
I glanced around the meager library, medicine cabinet and market basket that metaphorically describes my office. Though I wished I had something richer, I handed her a calendar book that comes with two types of stickers. One sticker is of a fun pair of sneakers, the other of a fork, knife, and spoon in a happy face kind of configuration. It’s designed to encourage a child to keep note of their healthy choices, hopefully in a fun way. Kids generally like it because they tend to love stickers.
The child’s face lit up. After having been rather reserved throughout the meeting, she perked up and said, “I know what I can do with this.” I asked her what that was. She replied, that instead of using the stickers if she ate healthy food or played something, she would draw a picture of that instead. I breathed a sigh of relief. The world will be a more beautiful place graced by the gifts of this young artist.
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In health, Elyn
My Plate Haiku
Peach baskets brimming
Raspberries ripe on the bush