I had the opportunity last night to care for Professor and Piglet, my first babysitting charges in Toronto. It seems like forever ago since I came to the family on a beautiful fall day to look after 4-year-old Professor and 14-month-old Piglet. Now they’re big kids of 8 and 5 . . . and they’ve changed a lot. Piglet is no longer a Piglet. She’s a tall, willowy girl of 5 with long blonde hair and a beautiful smile. Professor hasn’t changed much in the way he looks, but his eyes have gotten older and wiser and he’s now up to my clavicle (though I’m not very tall!). It was interesting to talk to them, especially remembering how we used to talk.
Professor is still shrewd and interested in learning. He’s also compassionate. I get this question a lot from kids his age – “Why are you fat, L?” And it used to hurt my feelings, but now, it really doesn’t. Kids ask because they’re curious, the majority of the time. And we had a long conversation about genetics vs. exercise, and other scientific reasons why someone would be fat. It bothers me that in school, they’re teaching the kids that fat always equals unhealthy. I have been a healthy fat person for a long time, and I know others who are, too.
One of the things that really struck Professor was the idea that someone being fat probably doesn’t want to be fat. It’s like it never really occurred to him that being fat could affect the way a person feels or thinks about themselves. His mind ticked away as he considered this, then he smiled and said that he understood that someone could feel bad about the way they looked, and that it was wrong to make fun of them or make them feel worse. I’m glad that Professor has parents who teach him this stuff, and I’m also glad that he’s empathetic and clever enough to realize these truths for himself. It’s never an uncomfortable conversation, even if afterwards, if I really admit it to myself, I do feel bad that he pointed out how fat I am. The difference is the intent behind it, though. He’s learning, and if no one teaches him how to look at folks that might be fat, he’s not going to know how to do it when he’s older and is influenced by peer pressure and bullying.
Piglet can now read, which makes me smile since I remember rocking her to sleep in my arms in her tiny bedroom in the old house. We sat and she read me a comic from her Chirp magazine, and it was interesting to see that I apparently stay the same while children grow. It’s funny that if I look at old pictures of Professor and Piglet, that I still look the very same way, while they are so changed. But I’m honoured to still be able to be with them in any respect – they have always been some of my favourite and most-loved charges.
We’ve all grown a little, I think, but the smiles I get and the excitement that I’m told about when I come to babysit them don’t change. I’m just really glad that I have the ability to still be in their lives. It means a lot to me.