KIELBASA LIFE Life in Poland

The Dreaded Letter

We got it. 
The Dreaded Letter.
From school.
The sealed Dreaded Letter from school.

Proper Letters

I used to get letters. Proper letters. Proper letters with return addresses. Proper letters with return addresses, stamps, and sometimes a little window. How exciting it was to check the mailbox back then. That’s how I got my university acceptance letter. I remember pulling the envelope out of the mailbox and immediately second guessing.

It’s thin so it must be a rejection. If they wanted me, they’d have sent some extra materials. No, YOU open it. I just can’t. Give me that. You are so slow. I can’t look. You read it. Out loud! Yeah! I got in! Let’s celebrate.

Kids today have no idea what they are missing.

The Colored Envelope

Polish business establishments such as my bank do not seem to realize the fear that goes into my formerly indebted American heart when I see a colored envelope in my mailbox. Think the same panic as when you have to sign for a letter from ZUS (Polish Social Security). Colored envelopes mean something is wrong. Colored envelopes from a bank mean you owe somebody money. OK, you have no mortgage, so you couldn’t possibly owe them money, and you know that, but you panic just the same…the same as when you now have to sign for a letter from ZUS.

Speaking of ZUS, a true story- After signing and dating the dreaded letter from ZUS, the post woman asked me to sign it “bardziej po polsku”. Like how? How can I sign it in Polish? It’s a letter from ZUS. It’s my signature. You have brought me a letter from ZUS with my name printed on it. You have written my name in block letters. You have asked me to sign it. I have signed it. Now what? Should I sign it “Maria Skłodowska Curie”, perhaps? That’d certainly be more Polish…and a little bit French, but not at all my name.)

The most dreaded of all, the letter sent home from school

I’m pretty sure that one of my kids is gonna get the dreaded letter home from the principal, most likely for insubordination and probably for use of the f-word during such insubordination. I’m ready for that. I’ve been ready for that for awhile. I can handle that. Obedience isn’t high up on my list of skills and wisdom I want to impart on my kids. Well, it isn’t actually on my list at all. Yes, I have an actual list. “Respect” is on there. “You don’t have to smile if you don’t want to” is on there. “Know when to hold ’em. Know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away. Know when to run.” is on there too. “Obey” is not.

No, this dreaded school letter isn’t an insubordination letter from the principal. It isn’t a request from the English teacher for my child to stop correcting her. It isn’t even a letter about grades or behavior or anything like that because it’s from the school nurse! Yes, the school nurse! I wasn’t even aware that we had a school nurse, but there you go. Forget about somebody’s existence, and they send you a letter home.

The nurse. Please let it not be serious. They would not just send a letter home with a kid if it were serious, right? So it can’t be serious. Did all the kids get a letter or just you? All you think? So it can’t be something bad. Whew! Nothing bad then. Definitely something easy peasy, like shots. You probably just need some booster shots or something like that. I can’t find anything in your health book though. Maybe it’s about menstruation. Wait, what? You already had the menstruation talk at school? Oh gawd, please let it not be head lice. Please no. Show me your head. Is it itchy here? No? Yes, you can go. Go.

What the Hell?

The Dreaded Letter

It was this. My daughter’s height, weight, her calculated BMI, and an invitation for the whole family to attend a really wonderful program aiming to combat childhood obesity by involving the whole family. It includes medical tests for the whole family, exercise classes, nutrition and cooking classes, group therapy, the whole 9 yards and I really, really, want to go. There’s just one thing…my daughter doesn’t weigh 57.3 kilograms. I don’t even weigh 57.3 kilograms. She weighs 37 kilograms on the dot. The nurse made a clerical error – a 20-kilogram error that identifies my kid as obese and qualifies us to the program. Do you think we can still go?

Uwaga , slight tangent here.

So here’s the thing, well not the thing but a thing. I’m not obese (nor are the kids), but my sister with the same upbringing is, and she owns it. She doesn’t pretend to have a metabolic disorder or that it’s genetic. Ask her and she’ll tell you (or don’t ask her and she’ll still tell you). She likes to eat and drink, and never exercises. It’s all her own fault according to her. I was unaware of weight and things like that for a blissfully long time. I mean longer than most kids today, and if not for others around me, I could have entered my teenage years unaware. I was made aware by classmates. “Chris isn’t fat. She’s big-boned.” I most certainly wasn’t, but what I was, was a foot taller than all my classmates at the time and taller than the teachers and the principal too. I also had breasts and my period as the first one in my class, a real outcast there in Catholic school as if I had any control over the start date and/or final effects of puberty. I was made aware by teachers who saw that I didn’t have a lunch (I’d forgotten it) and who grilled me about my feelings of self worth all the while not offering me anything in the way of food. Thank goodness that when they called my mother that afternoon, she was able to walk, phone in hand, to the refrigerator and see my forgotten lunch just sitting there. I was made aware by our PE teacher who ordered all 5th graders who weighed more than a hundred pounds to stand up in front of the room and for the class to shout out ways they could help us keep our weight down, never mind that in 5th grade I was 5’6″ tall and should easily have weighed  more than a hundred pounds. It was our school principal, a nun, who seeing me a year later at the same weight made me aware by instructing me not to lose anymore weight. My reply that I hadn’t lost any put a confounded look on her face.

My parents didn’t want us to be overweight and certainly not obese. We had to play a sport. We weren’t allowed to drink sugary drinks. We ate dinner together every evening. When my sister who is older than me started to develop and “chubbed out” as we called it, my parents monitored her eating. Oh, did they ever. So much so that I was sneaking food for my hungry sister who immediately stuffed it in her face not really tasting it or enjoying it and forever messing up her relationship with food. It messed up mine too, but I didn’t realize it at the time. About four years later the same thing happened to me – the chubbing out, the monitoring of my food intake. There was nobody around to sneak this hungry girl a snack, so she (czyli me) just stopped eating. No one controls what I put in my mouth. Fortunately, my grandmother stepped in and told them to leave me alone. But she wasn’t all hearts and flowers for everyone. I’d heard her ask her own daughter, my mother, why she ate so much.

No one is immune. We all have our food issues. I’m not for burying my head in the sand either. I want my kids to eat nutritious food when they are hungry and stop when they aren’t hungry anymore. I want them to fuel their bodies and exercise them and live and love, and be happy. I know it’s a bit much especially in the era of social media and all that stuff, but I think I will still try. You wanna try too? You probably already try though. Give me a hand then. How do you do it?

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