Post # 1
This is very non-wedding related, but I need some advice. Feel free to ask about any details that you want to know more about.
My best friend was killed in a car accident two weeks after her daughter, M, was born. The father had nothing to do with her almost immediately. M’s maternal grandparents legally adopted her. M’s grandfather died at 55 of lung cancer, so now it’s just the grandmother raising her.
M is now 9 years old, but for her entire life, she has been fed WHATEVER she wants WHENEVER she wants (fast food or pizza every day, gallons of soda each week, ice cream and cookies every night….you get the idea). She is about 110 lbs. I won’t dance around it. She’s HUGE for her age. My heart aches every time I think of how tough life is going to be for M. I work in a school and I know kids can be awful. Throw in the fact that she has no parents and will inevitably have serious health issues, and I’m starting to feel the need to say something. I just don’t know how.
I’ve known M’s guardian since I was born. It should be easy to talk to her about anything, but for some reason I just can’t talk about this. It’s not my place. I’m not raising her, but I know my deceased best friend would not approve of this lifestyle. I’m furious that an adult doesn’t know any better than to feed her like this. I want to say something SOOOOO bad. I know that doctors already have said something at her yearly physicals, but to no avail… It’s obviously not M’s fault either. She’s 9. She can’t purchase food on her own.
I know that M’s health is more important than potentially insulting her grandmother, but I can’t bring myself to say anything. HELP!! What should I do? I’m so close to mailing annonymous pamphlets to her house. Really…give me ANY suggestions. Thanks in advance.
Post # 3
@KJM33: Don’t do that. The child might intercept the mail, and have a complex about it.
If you have a good relationship with the woman, be direct with her, but out of earshot of the little lady. Maybe offer to take her exercising with you? The best thing is to be supportive about it, and not accusatory.
Post # 4
I don’t have any advice, but the health-campaign on this issue is Georgia (while offensive to some people) seemed effective. Maybe you can discuss these issues with her.
Post # 5
- Wedding: July 2012 - The Gables Inn, Santa Rosa, CA
Have you suggested getting M into some form of physical activity? Maybe if she has an interest that increases her interest, she’ll focus on her health/nutrition more. 9 is early enough to start learning about your own health.
You can also give both M & her grandma kids cookbooks to help them learn better recipes and things.
Honestly, the reasons for her choices probably have little to do with not “knowing better”. The girl lost her mother, then some time later, her carefiver lost her husband. The grandma is probably tired, and she feels bad for her granddaughter because of what has happened; and thus never wants to “punish” her, and so she sets few bounderies in this reguard. It is highly common in situations like this, and is difficult for everyone involved.
Post # 6
Can you invite her out while the girl is at school? If you have it scheduled it might help you bite the bullet and get it out there.
It might also help if you had suggestions about things you are willing to do. Take the girl out to the farmer’s marker (with or without grandma) to pick out some tasty fruit to snack on. Offer to drive her to some type of sport or activity. Go swimming or on a walk with her. I imagine it’s difficult raising a grandchild.
Post # 7
She does dance and cheerleading three times a week, but at 9, these are hardly considered exercise. I also think that the grandmother uses this “physical activity” to justify her food choices. She would have to run 10 miles a day to burn off the calories she’s taking in.
Post # 8
@juliette.eliza: That is true, but you should never use food for comfort. Im sure her grandmother could love her up other ways instead of using food. Saying no to a kid who wants pizza or soda isnt bad. And unfortunatly bad eating habits usually start when the kid is young. And later on this girl might be angry at her grandma for giving her bad foods when she was younger.
Be supportive, maybe offer to take her one weekend and introduce new healthy foods (who knows, she might love them!!), or offer to sign her up for a physical activity, like dance or soccer.
Post # 9
@AEMalmostK: Wow, thanks for that article.. Very powerful.
Post # 10
Definitely start with love and offer more solutions than judgement. Take M for a walk with you, go play with her. Have them over for a healthy home cooked meal. Take M to the farmer’s market with you and teach her about all the delicious things out there and how good they are for you. If you can have her over, teach her to cook and appreciate yummy healthy stuff. You can always work in stuff like “yeah, I LOVE ice cream but I only allow myself to eat it once a week. It’s not as good for me as all this stuff so I save it for a treat when I’m feeling really good about something. It’s easy to want to just sit down and eat all kinds of stuff when you feel bad, but what makes me feel better is cooking something myself.”
Sounds like a super tough situation and you’re being a good friend by looking out for the kid, but be really careful to not come off as disapproving of her parenting (even though you are). PP is right that her grandmother has been through a lot of crap losing her daughter, then husband, and all along caring for a child again. She’s taken the easy way. While it’s not the right way, it’s understandable.
Post # 11
I might approach this with having NOTHING to do with food or M’s weight… at first.
I’m not sure how guardianship works….. but I would imagine it’s stressful. I would imagine there is a TON of guilt involved. INDULGANCE, which is what this is, is an emotional response to guilt.
I might suggest you find out how the grandmother is doing. It must be stressful to be a grandmother caring for a child…. a tween at that. And then to suffer the loss of your husband – which means she lost some support that she had in helping to raise this child. Maybe say you just wanted to check in, since you know the situation has changed and she’s now, effectively, a single mother. The problem is…. she’s also a grandmother. And grandma’s are NOTORIOUS for spoiling their grandchildren.
So, I might approach it from a “how are things going” perspective and see if she will open up to you. How is M’s behavior? Is she bratty? Is she sad? Is she “too” grown-up? Being raised in a dysfunctional environment (which is sounds like this is) should create a behavioral issue in some way, aside from just the obesity. I would maybe start there.
The weight is just a symptom. The indulgence and lack of exercise is the real issue. Maybe she doens’t have the support to get her to sports or activities. maybe she lacks education. And then on top of that she’s dealing with guilt and trying to “make up” to her grand-daughter by using food. It’s unhealthy…. but moreso than just M’s weight.
Post # 12
Can you offer to watch her a day or two each week? Then make her lunch and explain good food vs bad. Go do active things together. etc.
Post # 13
I completely agree with JulesSchnooks that you have to be really careful not to involve the child in this at all. It could be really damaging to her self-esteem if she hears this indirectly from you. However, I do think you need to bite the bullet with her grandmother and be brutally honest with her – there’s no way that she doesn’t realise herself that the child is overweight. More than anything, be prepared for some backlash from the grandmother but offer your absolute support to her. She’s in a terribly difficult position, and while the food choices she offers the child are her fault, her reasons are likely to be guilt- and grief- related. Be understanding and DO NOT place blame with the grandmother but don’t insult her intelligence by skirting around the issue – be direct and honest with her. Tell her why you’re concerned about the child’s diet, and offer some practical solutions to help. Offer to go with the grandmother to see the doctor for information and help with dietary changes. Perhaps offer to watch the girl a few times and do some healthy cooking with her, then invite Grandma over for dinner that the girl’s cooked. Involving the child by educating her about nutrition and allowing her to help make decisions about her diet rather than simply foisting a new regime on her may help to make it more sustainable. Good luck with this – its so hard to draw that line between trying to help and not wanting to offend!
Post # 14
@3xaCharm: Brilliantly said!
Post # 15
All of these are very good suggestions. Thank you so much!
Post # 16
I WAS that child, and I know many others like her…i hate to say it, but unless she hits a growth spurt at puberty and has a life revolving around exercise and healthy eating, she is probably going to be an obese teenager and adult.
It’s a very hard thing to reverse once the fat cells are already formed…but that’s not to say it can’t be done if her environment changes completely. (Take Athena Onassis as an example. I think if her mother had lived, she would have been as heavy as her mother. I think being raised by her VERY active realatives saved her.)
Not trying to be a “Debbie Downer”…I’ve just lived it.