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My Son Is Not a Fucking Sumo Wrestler

Mark and I at the Château, Nantes, July 2013
Mark and I at the Château, Nantes, July 2013

People are weird.

Well, not you, obviously, but the other people.

When we were in Nantes, I visited a somewhat trendy and fancy baby clothing shop. It was one of these cute little boutiques around the Château des Ducs, the kind I never set a foot in because 1) they are pricey 2) the owner jumps on you as soon as you walk in and follow your every move.

Against my better judgment I pushed the door with Mark in the stroller.

“How old is he?” the salesperson, presumably the owner of the shop, asked me as soon as I entered.

“Nine months old”, I replied, eyeing the rack of clothes and trying to see the price tag.

Yes, definitely too expensive. I am not spending 30 euro on a onesies that will be peed on, poop on, spit on.

“Oh, you need a big size for that big boy!” the owner said. “Here, we have these t-shirts… these are toddler sizes but he will never fit 9-12 month clothes.”

I nodded absentmindedly as she started to pick a few clothes from the rack.

“That would be too small… that would be too small too…” the owner kept on muttering, slightly annoyed.

“Oh, this is the cutest pair of jeans. Look!”

She held a pair of baby-sized blue jeans in front of me, waiting for my approval.

“Lovely!” I claimed.

She took another look at Mark and sighed. “But there is no way he can fit skinny jeans. No way. I mean, look at his legs! Chubby, chubby, chubby!”

I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. Skinny jeans? For a baby? Seriously?

First of all, just the name of this particular cut annoys me—“skinny”. Second, who on earth would be crazy enough to wrestle a baby into a snug pair of jeans? Just putting a diaper on Mark is a challenge, he moves all the time!

And what the hell am I supposed to say to that? “Oh, don’t worry, I’ll put him on a diet and I’ll be back in a week—he will fit the pants!” Or maybe “That’s just too bad my baby is too fat for your designer clothes!”

It’s bad enough we, grownups, have to bow to the tyranny of dress sizes, now apparently babies have to as well!

The worst part was, the shop owner seemed to be truly sorry that Mark couldn’t fit the jeans!

The second anecdote occurred this morning in Ottawa. I was waiting for my turn at the cash register, a basket full of food in my hand and a somewhat cranky Mark in the stroller. The customer before me was taking forever because she was applying for a Walmart credit card.

I was trying to calm Mark down when she noticed him.

“Sorry”, I said. “He is usually pretty quiet but we just came back from holidays and he is a bit tired.”

“Man, look at this big boy!” she said. “He is big! What are you going to be when you grow up? A sumo wrestler or something?”

I bit my tongue and faked a smile. “My son is not a fucking sumo wrestler!” I protested inwardly.

Yes, Mark is a big boy. He is not a monster, though. He is about 9.5 kilos, 70 centimetres tall, and he is doing fine, thank you very much. He has baby fat, pudgy little legs and arms. Sometime I call him “my little Buddha.”

And you know what? That’s fine. He is a baby. He is supposed to have fat, he is supposed to be chubby.

When he was born, he weighed 2.75 kilos. All along the pregnancy, doctors were concerned about his weight, claiming he wasn’t big enough. After he was born, he wasn’t gaining weight fast enough and the pediatrician wanted me to have him weighted at the clinic every three days. Boy, the pressure! Each time the doctor put him on the scale, my heart stopped for a second as I waited for the digital numbers to settle down. Gained a few grams? I was congratulated—the doctor made me feel like I did my job as a mother. Didn’t gain? I should try harder, feed him more, never skip a meal, wake him up to eat.

Eventually, I switched to formula and stopped worrying when his newborn clothes became too small. I stopped weighting him. He looked healthy, wasn’t dehydrated, had energy, was opening up to the world—these are the signs of a healthy baby, right?

During his last checkup, at six months old, I proudly told the doctor his weight. “That’s just a little bit below the curve,” she claimed. Feng and I looked at each other, slightly taken aback. “How big babies are supposed to be here?” I asked later in the elevator. “Seriously, he looks fine! It’s never good enough!”

And now that he finally gained weight, random people apparently think he is too chubby… and that it is okay to make comments about it.

Don’t get me wrong—I am not a very politically correct person and I like to call a spade a spade. But when did it become okay to comment on people’s appearance like that?

It’s not like I am offended or anything. But I don’t think it’s very healthy to start telling a kid he is too fat or too skinny. The fact that Mark doesn’t understand doesn’t make it okay.

I still remember being labelled as “the fat one” when I was a kid, while my sister was “the skinny one”. And it wasn’t a good thing either way—we were both self-conscious. Looking back, we were just normal kids, with different body types, nothing extreme.

I do believe that keeping a healthy weight is important but there is no magic number and nutrition is more than just what the scale says—or what kind of jeans cut you fit.

Same goes for babies.

So leave us alone!

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