“Weight for It” by Brenda McCray
Are you a parent going through the Terrible Twos? Did you live through them and survive? Terrible Twosdays is a place to commiserate over the unending shenanigans of your Darling Children (as the online parenting communities say). Nonfiction stories will be considered, so long as names have been changed to protect the guilty. Inspired by our best-selling gift book for parents, Go the Fuck to Sleep, Terrible Twosdays joins the roster of our other online short fiction series. Unlike Mondays Are Murder and Thursdaze, we’re looking for stories with a light and mischievous feel, all about the day-to-day challenges of parenting. As with our other flash fiction series, stories must not exceed 750 words.
This week, Brenda McCray teaches us a lesson in semantics.
“Mama, Miss Tina is fat,” Rose announced from the backseat of my Nissan Sentra. Panic immediately set in. Miss Tina was the teacher of the three-year-olds at Rose’s day care and was a large woman, a woman who swayed east to west even while moving north to south. Tina was a kind, witty woman, loved by the kids at the center, and much appreciated by the parents too. Whenever Rose came in with mismatched socks or snot dribbling from her nose, Tina just laughed. She had an easy nature and never seemed to be judging anyone.
Rose had been at the YWCA childcare center since she was three months old and was a center favorite. She was usually such a sweet girl, so what on earth was this nastiness she had uttered about Miss Tina?
I stammered a reply. “We do not say that people are fat, Rose. That is not nice!”
Honestly, I was worried that the damage had already been done. I figured that Rose’s proclamation may have already been made to her teacher. I could apologize if Rose puked on Tina. I could apologize if Rose dropped an F-bomb. I could not imagine how to apologize for something so personal and so insulting.
“Rose, did you tell anyone else that Miss Tina is fat? Like, did you say anything to anyone at school about it? What about Miss Tina? Did you tell Miss Tina?”
“No, Mama. I am just telling you! Miss Tina is fat.”
“Rose, we do not say that about people! If you say that to Miss Tina, you will hurt her feelings. Do you want to hurt Miss Tina’s feelings?”
“Promise me you won’t ever say that to anyone else!”
Still, in the back of my mind, I wondered. For the next several days, during drop-off and pickup, I watched Tina, looking for any sign of offense. When I found none, I relaxed. Maybe Rose had told me the truth!
Truth from three-year-old Rose was never a given. For example: one time, in the bathtub, I noticed a bruise on her shin. I pointed at the bruise. “What happened here, Rose?”
Rose was matter-of-fact. “A firefighter kicked me.”
I laughed, certain that no such thing had happened. I pictured a firefighter walking straight up to Rose and stopping in front of her. I pictured him drawing back his booted foot and then, with unquestionable purpose, delivering a kick right to Rose’s shin. I could not stop laughing. And that was just one tall tale that I had heard from my daughter.
I knew that I was hypersensitive to the whole fat thing. Growing up, my size and weight seemed to be an open topic of discussion in my family—and not just my immediate family. I could remember roundtable discussions at my grandma’s house with several aunts and cousins present that dealt with the important issue of whether I was fat or just solid. I could remember my father’s cruel response when I told him I had been selected for the cheerleading squad: “You must be pretty agile for a fat girl.”
Both my sister-in-law and I had struggled with body image growing up. Not that we ever got over it, but we knew that we did not want to teach body insecurity to our own daughters. During our pregnancies, we had vowed to each other to stop saying negative things about our bodies. We would do things differently! Our girls would be confident! And we would never plant those hurtful seeds.
I really did try to abide by the no-negative-comments-about-bodies thing, especially when Rose was in earshot. I was not slim. I would say that I was on the large side of things. Overweight, but not obese. So a couple of weeks later, on the way home from day care, when Rose announced to me from the backseat that I had a “medium tummy,” instead of arguing with her and telling her how my tummy was really huge and gross, I agreed with her.
“You know what, honey? I do have a medium tummy!” I cannot lie, I was flattered by Rose’s assessment of my tummy as medium. I was practically over the moon with it. “Yes, Rose, Mama has a medium tummy!” Rose’s reply brought my gushing glory to a halt, stinging like a firefighter’s kick to the shin.
“It’s not nice to say fat.”
BRENDA McCRAY is a an Oklahoma City criminal investigator and a mother to one daughter. In her spare time, she enjoys writing fiction, reading, and taking large bites of nachos.
Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Terrible Twosdays flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should focus on the challenges of parenting. Ideally, stories should be about children aged 0 to 5, but any age (up to early teens) is acceptable. Stories may be fiction or nonfiction.
—Include the child’s age at the time of the story next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected] paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Aug 5, 2014
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