My beautiful son is in his first year of Primary school, and he is changing.
You see, my son is becoming his own person. He spends a lot of his time with his teacher and his friends at school, he has thoughts and experiences that I know nothing about. I can't limit his world any more (nor would I want to), and he has stories to tell me about the schoolyard that sometimes leave me in slack-jawed disbelief.
It all started last weekend, at a birthday party for one of his schoolmates. One of the ladies was telling us that her son, who has an older brother who is 14, goes into his room of a night and does sit ups and push ups so that he can get a six pack. I was amazed that a six year old would be so concerned with his body, but thought it was harmless enough. I mean, there's nothing wrong with a bit of hero worship and wanting to be healthy, right? Well....the conversation quickly continued about the boys in the playground ALL wanting six packs, with the boys deciding that those who had the six packs were good, and anyone who didn't was bad.
There is a bit of a gym culture at our school among the parents, but that's not unusual, and healthy as long as not taken to excess, right? I mean, I try to stay fit but I'm never going to be a gym junkie. Shopping is my cardio, and my beautiful hubby has a full on manual job, which means he doesn't have the time or the inclination to go to the gym.
Yesterday, my son came home and dragged the scales out of the bathroom. "Mum", he said "I need to see if I am fit or not. Am I fat?" What the actual heck? I thought that this was a conversation I would just not need to have with him, especially at the tender age of six! He pulled up his shirt and said "I don't have a six pack, it's good to have a six pack mum". I whipped out the laptop and fired up the Height and Weight charts for six year olds - and showed him that he was in the 100th percentile for height and the 75th percentile for weight. "You know what this means, mate - you are just right. Your weight is exactly what it should be for being healthy.".
I think I reassured him, but I was still confused by our conversation - so I brought it up with one of my friends at the school concert last night. She told me that her son had taken Christmas beads into his bed with him and was sleeping on them. She told him that it was dangerous to sleep with beads, and he said "But mum!! If I sleep on these beads they will go into my skin and in the morning I'll have a six pack". She was horrified!
Seriously? Is this a thing? If this is happening to the boys, what are the girls saying to each other? I guess there's a lot more images of physical perfection in the media and society as a whole feels a lot more compelled to be fit and chiseled. When I was six, all I can remember is running fast and playing with my friends. I certainly didn't worry about whether I was fat or not. All I can do is reassure my son that his body is strong and healthy. Are we too obsessed with bodily perfection? I don't know what the answer is.....but I'm fairly certain that it doesn't involve a six pack on a six year old.