A little too far...

I debated long and hard on my drive home from work over whether or not to write a post on this. But the more I thought about it, the more this particular story seems to highlight so much of our society's screwed up views on food, weight, and the role of parents.

I read a news article on my lunch break at work about an obese boy who social workers in the UK were attempting to remove from his home. Why? His mom wouldn't stop feeding him junk food, and wouldn't lock the fridge. They said that his weight and feeding habits were signs of parental neglect.

This baffles me, especially since the mother sought the advice of health professionals at the start of the year to help her son. Sure doesn't sound like neglect to me. The article also doesn't disclose whether the boy had any underlying metabolic disorders, citing privacy concerns. Which is all well and good, except they disclose damn near everything else, and any innate illness would make a big difference. I don't think you get a 200 lb eight-year-old who just likes potato chips a little too much. You just don't. There's something else going on there, something that sounds a lot like Prader-Willi Syndrome.

But at the end of the day, what really gets to me is that his mother is blamed for his situation. And what gets me thinking even more is both the difference and similarities with parents and anorexia. Say an 8 year old kid presents with anorexia. Would the parents be hauled into court for neglect? I can almost guarantee not. Society is, in my opinion, much more tolerant of low weights than of high ones. An 8-year-old with anorexia is in just as much mental and physical danger as an 8-year-old who weighs 200 pounds. But the whole obesity epidemic hype has gone a little bit too far. Does this boy have a weight problem? Absolutely. But I highly doubt that a little overeating and too much time in front of the telly could do something that drastic.

On the other hand, the parents of the hypothetical eight-year-old with anorexia will probably have their parenting skills called into question, too. "How could you let your kid DO this?" they might ask. You very well might ask that of the parents of a child with cancer. "How could you let this happen?"

There are skilled parents, and there are not-so-skilled parents. Even the children of skilled parents- like me- fall ill with diseases for which we know little about. This boy's mom is single, and suffers from depression. When I was young, my mom suffered from depression too. It makes parenting a whole hell of a lot harder- when I'm depressed I can hardly remember to feed my cat, let alone comprehend how to care for a child. Parents are people. They come with their own issues. Mothers aren't made saints when they pop their first child out from the womb.

I'm glad the boy is getting help. I hope his mother does, too, so they can all grow up to be happy and healthy.

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mary said...

I saw this story on the news and had some of the same feelings. There was a time when it would be considered negligence to allow a child to starve and NOW it seems some treatment places are advocating allowing just this. This is the part that confuses me. Whenever they've done a story on some of these kids, who may or may not have prader willi, the story that follows often reveals a parent not knowing how to feed properly. Often they don't feed themselves properly either and it's an environmental type of thing that's been passed down. I find it curious that Drs. do not intervene and offer nutritional support earlier on, helping those who may not understand what a growing child requires. Ideally, it would seem that sending a nutritionist who can give the family a meal plan might be the better answer for this situation. Actually the fact that he got to be 8yrs. old would indicate that the Dr. failed to over see his diet if he required monitoring or had a health risk. Shine the like on the Dr.! I don't think the boy suddenly grew. He was probably always a big guy and may always be a little bigger. The media violation to this family is what irks me. Supporting the family privately and treating them with dignity would usually be in the child's best interest regardless of what's wrong.


I think the point I was trying to make (which I totally didn't...serves me right for doing this when I'm completely fried) is that his mother was not trying to harm her child. There's a difference between parenting mistakes and abuse and neglect. This is a case of the former and not the latter.

And you're right- the doctor should have provided advice and counseling long before the boy got to this point. He doesn't appear that he's ever going to be a small guy. But it's health they should be concerned with, NOT weight.

mary said...

You were clear! I had just seen the report on the news and I had thoughts still rolling around in my head when you posted. I tell ya Carrie, give me a topic that I'm passionate about and watch out....I ramble.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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nour·ish: (v); to sustain with food or nutriment; supply with what is necessary for life, health, and growth; to cherish, foster, keep alive; to strengthen, build up, or promote


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