I was with friends today. There was a platter of cupcakes and a bowl of fruit. The cupcakes were tiny. The cupcakes were home-made. The cupcakes were delicious.
As I sat among my friends, I noticed sidelong glances at the platter. Someone took an apple. Someone else chewed a pencil. Finally, someone took a cupcake and a few others followed suit.
Cupcakes came up in the continuing conversation. “I’m being bad,” said a cupcake eater. “I’m being good,” said a cupcake refuser. “I’m stress eating,” said one. “He’s stress eating,” said another.
Food and guilt. Guilt and appearances. Appearances and self-worth.
When I was pregnant, my body became the subject of daily commentary. People on the street would comment to me and sometimes to one another (loudly) about the size of my belly (massive). Now, at eleven months old (but in 2 year old’s clothes), my son is the subject of daily commentary. People at the park comment to me and sometimes to one another (loudly), “He’s so big.” They mean “he’s so tall” but that isn’t what they say, and it’s not what I hear.
How do I teach him not to measure his self-worth by the commentary of others? How do I teach him that an off hand thought need not be expressed aloud and that the content of an unsolicited offhand remark ought not be internalized? How do I teach him that a cupcake is just a cupcake and not a measure of how “bad” or “good” he is?
I can start by knowing healthy boundaries and by being a good example. I can enjoy the tiny cupcake. Perhaps I can enjoy two. I can keep my mouth shut when others engage in “good/bad” commentary. I can teach my child that we eat food primarily to sustain our bodies and our minds. I can teach him that delicious food is fuel, not reward, not pastime.
I can remember that words have power. The ones we say out loud to others and the ones we say quietly to ourselves – they have power.
Sometimes, a cupcake is just a cupcake. Sometimes it’s much more than that.