Along with maths, English and geography, do you want a subject called “weight” on your kids’ report cards?
Hands up all those who, like me, shout, “No!”
The proposal from academic and medico David Penington that children’s weight should be recorded and then feature on school report cards is so boneheaded and wrong, I barely know where to begin.
How about we skip the “Night Before School Weigh-In” – accompanied by the sound of thousands of children regurgitating their dinner down the toilet after perusing websites on dieting, anorexia and bulimia.
And we don’t have to imagine the scenes at school the next day, because in the ’70s a generation of students was weighed during PE classes and their measurements posted on the gym wall for all to see. Now, as parents, many recall the experience as “devastating”.
They became self-conscious, were bullied and developed eating disorders back in the day when there wasn’t even a name for that stuff.
Instead, why don’t we go straight to the handing over of the report card:
“Well done! You got an ‘A’ for English.”
“It doesn’t matter. I’m fat.”
“No, you’re not! You’re clever and smart and …”
“What your mother is saying is that it doesn’t matter if …”
Or, perhaps it will go like this:
“I got an ‘A’ in geography, dad.”
“Who cares? You got an ‘F’ for FAT. You FAIL!”
“Your father’s right. You do need to go on a diet.”
Then there’s this scenario:
“You got an ‘F’ for maths. That’s not good enough.”
“But on Facebook I got an ‘A’ for Anorexia and a ‘B+’ for Bulimia, mum.”
In any event, expect a resounding slamming of doors followed by an echoing silence.
Many public health officials fancy themselves as Mary Poppins – parachuting into the lives of failing families and offering guidance with a firm but loving hand.
But The State is a really rotten Nanny – she’s a capricious, hypocritical, gossipy, vindictive bat.
No sane parent would ever employ a State Nanny to look after the kids.
Because what kind of nanny plonks her charges in front of the TV watching rolling advertisements for hamburgers, sugary cereals, drinks and lollies, and then berates them for gobbling them up? What sort of nanny sells off public open space for development, approves cramped housing with no backyards and then orders kids to go outside and play?
How about the nanny who cuts funding for school sports, then urges children to traipse from door-to-door selling chocolate to raise money for new basketball hoops? And just what variety of nanny encourages families to live in new housing estates with no public transport or bike paths – far away from schools – and then nags them to leave the car behind and walk?
This is the same State Nanny who – knowing full well her record of abject failure to care – launches into the classroom with a set of scales and fat-measuring calipers. Then comes the frown and finger-wag.
“You’ve had way too much sugar and not enough medicine. And you’re not going to like it, but …”
The repeated mantra from public health officials is that modern-day parents don’t know their kids are fat and it’s up to them to point it out to us.
Let’s say they’re right and that we don’t see our kids and their friends are heftier than we were at their age. Let’s assume that we parents are oblivious to the issues of child obesity, eating disorders and body image that are canvassed daily in every newspaper, radio and TV program.
And, on that basis, because we’re idiots, why don’t we just hand over authority for our children’s health to others – even though they’re not the ones who marvel at how tall and strong our children are growing to be and cannot begin to understand how we know every inch of our children’s skin, just as well as we know our own?
We are the ones who care for our children and we worry and fret about them endlessly.
The assumption that some have less care for their children than “we” do? Because their kids weigh more?
Bad parenting comes in so many guises. It’s easy to tag excess body weight as a mass indicator of neglect, but that’s not the half of it.
This year, a study by the Australian National University found that more than 75 per cent of Australians polled want a ban on junk food during children’s TV programs.
”We’re talking about a nation that is concerned that children are particularly vulnerable and that advertising to them is somehow implicated in what’s often referred to as the epidemic of obesity,” ANU professor Stuart Lockie said.
”We get a lot of chatter from some parts of the media about the ‘nanny state’, which is feeding off people’s concern that governments intervene a bit too much. But clearly people think here is somewhere where intervention is warranted.”
That’s right, State Nanny.
You see, it’s not that we don’t want your assistance (you could start by folding the washing) but we want you to support us in helping our children to overcome all the obstacles left in our way.
Your remedy – higher taxes on fatty and sugary foods – is about as welcome and efficacious as a spoonful of castor oil.
In the end, the best thing about Mary Poppins was that she gave the Banks family a few clues, then buggered off and let them get on with it.
My favourite Mary Poppins quote?
“Never judge things by their appearance… Even carpetbags. I’m sure I never do.”