"Is bread fattening?" asked Oldest daughter in the bathtub, wincing as Youngest splashed and aimed a squirt from a rubber fish in her direction.
Please don't overreact, my inner Teenager pleaded with my inner Mom who is prone to overreacting.
I adopted a calculatedly level tone. "I guess anything is, if you eat too much of it."
As if I didn't know the exact calorie, fat, carbohydrate, fiber, and protein count of three distinct brands of white bread.
But I knew this wasn't coming from me. Fattening is not a word I use. Fattening is a word used by middle-aged soccer moms who believe that certain foods add inches to their thighs while low-fat s'mores can be eaten by the fistful. "Did someone tell you that?" I asked.
"Courtney said it was," said Oldest, and she busied herself with arranging a bubble citadel for our resident mermaid.
I quickly thought back to third grade. Yes, as scrawny eight-year-olds we'd called ourselves fat. We'd talked about how we needed to go on diets. But not really. We were imitating our mothers and older sisters, the same way we talked about lipstick and boyfriends. I didn't really think I was fat any more than I really wanted a boy to come within twelve feet of me.
The only third-grader I knew who could really claim to be on a diet was my chubby friend Susie whose mom regularly packed her celery sticks for lunch and then fed her brownies and Twinkies as after-school snacks. I'm quite certain Susie is in therapy now.
Of course, I felt a mom-ish responsibility to beat the issue to death with a heavy club. "You know, there's no such thing as good foods or bad foods! If you eat a balanced diet every day and exercise, you'll always stay fit! And being thin is not the same thing as being healthy! And people like you for what you do, not how you look!"
Oldest pointed to the bottles above her head and said, "Can you reach me some more shampoo for my mermaid's hair?"
"Anorexia kills brain cells!"
"For more information, go to www.nationaleatingdisorders.org!"
Somewhere in the distance, my inner Teenager could be heard slamming the door to her room.