Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

If the shoe fits...

One of our daughters got dressed for school this morning in a bulky sweater. She then proceeded to mope about our home and complained that she looked fat. For a moment, let's ignore the fact that today is a hot and sunny day, emphasis on hot, by which I mean to say that it is not anywhere close to bulky sweater weather. The comment was a test and I was determined to pass. "Sweetie," I said, "you are anything but fat and nothing could make you look fat". This is the truth. She looked right through me and, to some spot on the wall I was incapable of seeing, said, "I feel fat". I asked why she didn't just change her clothes. She shrugged her shoulders. I insisted again that she did not look fat and suggested that maybe the lack of shape of the sweater was making her feel this way. I went on to explain that when you look like her, even a bulky sweater does not make you look fat as opposed to when you look like me and wear bulky sweaters to hide stuff , you must wear them with leggings so that at least some shape can be detected. I have been accused of offering unsolicited long-winded dissertations to our daughters and this was turning into one of those. I invoked the weather and suggested she put a shirt on under the sweater because when she gets too hot in the sweater, as she inevitably will, and wants to take it off, she should have a comfortable and slightly more fitted shirt underneath that will show her trim figure just a little better. She shrugged. I reminded her that today's temp will reach the mid-eighties and she will definitely be too hot. She put a t-shirt on underneath the sweater. She attends a school with a uniform and cannot walk around in a t-shirt so this made no sense at all. I told her. She took the t-shirt off but kept the bulky sweater. All I could do at this point was make sure she brought deodorant to school with her because sweat was the only sure thing. On the deodorant front, I succeeded. Everywhere else - epic fail!

Every day with kids is a pop quiz. With teenage girls, every pop quiz includes at least one brain teaser. When this particular child wore this particular sweater last year, it fit a little bit looser than it does now and though she knows it's because she's growing, she finds the whole thing unsettling. Telling her she could never look fat in anything wasn't helpful. It happens to be true and I had to say it but it wasn't helpful. The solution miraculously occurred to me as I took her to school. I turned to her and suggested that maybe this weekend we should go out and she could spend her birthday money on the new boots she's been coveting. Her whole mood changed. Her face lit up. The promise of retail therapy can be as effective as the experience itself. And  every girl know that shoes and jewelry are the go-to items when you're in a body image rut.

Your littlest ones might enjoy Karen Baumont's Shoe-la-la!, illustrated by LeUyen Pham. This colorful picture book is a happy jaunt through the prettiest footwear. But shoe books don't have to evoke something pink or frilly - give your middle grader a copy of Gennifer Choldenko's Al Capone Shines My Shoes. This is a sequel to Al Capone Does My Shirts. The books are narrated by Moose Flanagan whose father is a prison guard at Alcatraz. The Alcatraz setting and shout-outs to some of its most famous prisoners make for a terrific blend of historical fiction and contemporary coming of age.

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