Tuesday, January 6, 2009

When Gretel ate the Witch's candy house...

How does one tell a neighbour that her daughter might have an eating disorder/is plain greedy/really needs attention (choose your diagnosis)? Does one? Do I keep my counsel? Do I reexamine my own prejduces before I attempt amateur diagnosis? What do I do?

One of my daughters playmates is a very bright, incredibly social and portly little girl, precocious in all senses beyond her tender chronological age. The kid comes over all the time and eats dinner with us atleast 2 or 3 times a week. I keep an eagle eye on the girls as they play... because... well, I have learnt to. She is a sweet kid but one aspect makes me wonder if there is a problem somewhere... with her or my perception.

This child eats, eats, eats, eats and eats some more. She demands, yeah demands.... second, third and fourth helpings at dinner and a big man sized snack every half an hour. She will eat both healthy and unhealthy things in termendous volumes. Without permission, she opens and rummages through and ransacks all my pantry and kitchen cabinets; is the first to open all entering grocery bags and knows the insides of my freezers and refrigerators intimately. In the past year or so, she has begun to sneak food if she thinks no one is paying attention. When she leaves our house, her pockets are bulging with cookies and sundry snacks that she has tries ineffectively to hide. I tell you this child eats much more than a grown man perfoming heavy manual labor. I feel awfully petty saying this, but sometimes I really think she will eat us out of my grocery budget. It has been this way since the kids were toddlers together. The kid displays plenty of energy and runs around but is obviously heavy.

The sneaking of the food really bothers me. It does. More than anything else.

I dont know if her parents will ever acknowledge there is a problem at all. How do I know this? Well, the mom jokes all the time about not needing a dishwasher in the house because the kid cleans her plate at every meal and is not a fussy eater. I tried to bring up the topic a couple of times, but she just kind of laughed it off. The housekeeper cooks a lot.... good, oldfashioned Italian home cooking. I know that she feeds the kid well, and no one is being starved in that house. The household seems quite normal apart from the kids being a little too materially indulged. It is a typical family in our neighbourhood.

I wonder sometimes if it is my own cultural prejiduces that make me irritated with this gluttony and sneaking of food. Then I think ... not... because visiting friends and the husband also see this. So why dont her parents see it?

I have lived in this country for a very long time. I am married into the culture for a very long time. But then I am still wary and sometimes unsure of how to say the difficult things. Unsure of what will be acceptable and what will not. Sometimes cultural rules are so hard. I wonder if I should even say it out. open and loud, or will it be construed as getting into someones childrearing business.

I know that I would like to know if my child had a problem like that. It would disturb me and make me feel somewhat defensive, but I would still like to know.

I am just so disturbed by what happened at dinner tonight. Oh the typical, and then the cookies fell out of her pockets when I walked her back home after dinner.

16 comments:

Rahul Viswanath said...

Come on Kids r Kids !!! Never kill the child in you ...... :)

Nice Post ..........

Ganesh said...

Hi Kiran,

I believe that you should approach her parents and put the matter to them in such way that they see it as medical problem rather you cribbing about petty issues.

You yourself know that it is a medical problem if it keeps persisting. Do not shy away. I know it will be very awkward putting it to her parents but take the chance, they might actually be thankful to you.

Braja said...

I'm not sure which culture you're referring to...you mean the American culture? Because I know really fat and over-indulged Indian kids, so I don't know if it's a "cultural" thing! It's a bad parenting thing, if you ask me. Same in any country....

Anorak said...

I hear exactly what you say about diverse rules and cultural boundaries. Having said that, a problem is a problem is a problem. And sometimes, there is no other way other than, taking the bull by its horns I suppose.

From what you write, eating disorder does not seem to be the only problem here, does it? This 'oversized' problem appears to have bred a few other collaterals like lying, stealing too.

I am not a parent yet, so cannot offer you any first-hand advice on how to handle such issues sensitively. And there are a few risks involved too. For instance, your daughter loosing out on this neighbouring girl's friendship! But I would still be tempted to have a discussion with her parents. In the grand scheme, it would make a difference to this girl's life.

Reflect and then act!!! Kuch jyaada toh nahi bol diya?!?

Another Kiran In NYC said...

Rahul:
Yeah, well I look at the post and feel childish for even writing it. Uncomfortable ya know!

Ganesh:
Good advice. Now only to word it in an acceptable way.

Braja:
Oh the cultural component is not about the child's behavior at all. God knows I know plenty of fat, and/or annoying desi kids too in India and overseas. That part is universal.

The cultural component is about what and how much I can say about someone else's parenting. Always tricky and subtle differences could make it go one way or another. I would be equally at sea about what to say and what will stick if I was in India today. Its all changed there for me too.

Another Kiran In NYC said...

Anorak:
Oh yes there are other issues. I wonder if my issues with the situation are to do with other issues more than just the unhealthy eating. Its all mixed up! I wonder about the impact it has on my own children. Both if I force the parents to see the issue head on and also if I dont.

But like you said... a problem is a problem is a problem.

Braja said...

Accha :)...sorry....well, yeah, that bit is the same anywhere, isn't it? Although I'd say Indian's may be less sensitive towards that kind of thing than westerners: food is so much part of the culture here, it can be brought up in conversation in that way. Although I should imagine suggesting to some Indian parents that little Rahul is "plumpish" and should perhaps lay off the over-buttered naan and samosas would be as horrific a suggestion as telling little Petey's parents that all those burgers and fries *may* not be as good for him as they think...sensitive area...

But I'd say if it's hitting your pocket then you have a genuine right to speak to the parents very directly...

ugich konitari said...

Is this child in your daughter's class ? I thought , maybe you can explain this to the teacher at school and ask her to bring up the subject. Coming from her , it may be considered a "valid" observation by the girl's parents, and they will probably pay attention.

Just an idea, I thought, might work....

Solilo said...

This is a bit complicated. I mean you can't tell a mother about her kid's weight issues. Sometimes straight talk just doesn't work. Are they family friends or just neighbors?

More than the weight issue what I find strange is the kid eating at your place 2-3 times a week. Now that is not right and parents should know the limits.

How about you politely ask the child to go back to her place at least 1 hour before dinner time? Tell her that you are going to give your kid a wash or something like that.

Once you tackle that, casually talk about weight issues in general and health issues due to overweight. You know just giving a hint by not directly saying it. At times you have to try tedi ungli ghee stuff too :)):)):))

Another Kiran In NYC said...

Ugich:
Thankfully they are not in the same class. That was a decision neighbour and I made had jointly when they started school... to request that they be assigned to different teachers. To keep things fresh... ya know.
But it is a great suggestion to have come from someone else.


Solilo:
Welcome to the blog in an official commenting capacity:)
Trying the tedhi ungli stuff. Ghee aint coming out of it yet!
I love that kid, shes sweet and it makes me mad with myself that I am getting so bent outta shape... ya know.

memsaab said...

It sounds to me like the little girl is starving for something other than food, like maybe some attention from her parents? Sounds like she (and her parents) might need some counseling before it's too late. Stealing and hoarding food is not normal behavior, and honestly since her parents are refusing to acknowledge the problem another grownup needs to...looks like it might be you. Fun fun fun!---but she needs help. And she's lucky that you care enough about her to notice.

Another Kiran In NYC said...

Memsaab:
Sounds like I am belling the cat.. ting ting!

Another Kiran In NYC said...

Memsaab:
Sounds like I am belling the cat.. ting ting!

asaaan said...

How old is this child? I know my kids are huge snacker. They might not eat 2nd or 3rd helpings at dinner but they want a snack every 2-3 hours almost when we stay home that is..

But seriously why are you feeding this child 2-3 times a week. That is not normal. No matter how good friends you are.. once a week is okay.
Does your dd go over to their house for dinner? Does the child hide the food there as well?

Anorak said...

Cat been belled yet, Kiran? Only being nosey:-)

Pitu said...

How bizarre! Sorry, I can't advice-don't have kids and suffer from foot-in-mouth problems ;-)