January 5, 2009

Body Mass Index


My new best friend is Lenore, the elementary school nurse. Lenore became my regular friend a few weeks ago when she sent home a note saying that she had trouble doing a lice check on my daughter, presumably because of the large rat's nest that has taken over the back of my five year-old's head. Lenore didn't respond too well when I told her that the nest is private property; I trespassed once with a fine-toothed comb and barely lived to tell about it.

My friendship with Lenore deepened over the weekend, when I received another letter in the mail, this one typed out on school district stationary and signed inexplicably in all capital letters by the nurse herself. Last month, all of the kindergartners were weighed and measured as part of the school's health and growth screening program. Lenore wanted to let me know that based on these numbers, my daughter's body mass index-for-age percentile was 88%.

While I was grateful for this information, I wasn't exactly sure what it meant. I would have scratched my head all day if Lenore hadn't been so kind as to include an explanatory paragraph in which she spelled out her specific concerns for my daughter in clear, non passive-aggressive language:

"Being either overweight or underweight can put a person at risk for certain health problems. A student who is overweight has an increased risk of developing serious conditions including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and certain cancers. A student who is underweight has an increased risk for heart problems, loss of bone mass, and anemia."

I liked the fact that Lenore had determined that my daughter was either overweight or underweight, but left it up me to guess which one. Normally, I would think that having a BMI in the 88th percentile wouldn't be a particularly good thing, but then again, if my daughter was ground beef, being in the 88th percentile would be considered quite lean.

28 comments

Tara@Sticky Fingers said...

when I took my son for his pre school weigh in he was measured to be on the 91st centile. I nearly flipped.
He can't be that bad can he? (as mothers I recognise that you never think your kids are bad at anything).
He's tall and lean (like his lucky sod dad), but that is what put him so high up on the chart - he is tall for his age.
Phew!

Kimberly said...

What a waste of letterhead.

Hey, Lenore, thanks for the ambivalence!

Anita said...

Can you believe they take the time to send out those arbitrary letters!?

File 13........the sooner the better

Robin said...

What's really scary is that the letter says "His/Her measurements are..." I mean, how hard is it to tell if the student is a boy or girl?

This chick gives nurses, like myself, a bad name!

Robin
http://alabamaslackermama.blogspot.com

Gina said...

I work part-time in an elementary school and when I return to work this week, I am going to ask our nurse if she sends out those letters. Because that is just wrong on so many levels.

janaemadsen said...

I am baffled- surely there are some kids in her class that are actually overweight.

janaemadsen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Renny said...

maybe ask Lenore what percentile she is in to figure it out.

amyhick said...

These things make Ryan and I hate the government. Oh wait, and it is only getting larger. Really...didn't know that was now the schools responsibility.

The Mommy said...

Seriously? BMI is a joke. My solution would be to ignore it unless your pediatrician tells you otherwise. And? Don't ever let your daughter see the letter!

Janille said...

I've been confused about child BMI and percentiles ever since my first child was born many years ago - the nurses or doctors tell me a number and I nod my head and say nothing. I figure if there was something I really needed to do about it, they would speak in plain language, like "No more Twinkies!" or "More Twinkies!"

I like to think I am smart enough to tell whether my child has a weight issue, just based on how they look - stay puff marshmallow or Twiggy or normal.

Liz said...

seriously... in a country where child obesity is such a problem, you'd think they would be okay with a child who was not. Children grow in stages, it's not like she's Kate Moss!
People crack me up!

Rachel said...

Does she think that as parents, we don't KNOW if our kids are over or underweight? Tell her to screw off. And while she's at it, tell her to quit poking around your kid's hair too. Because duh, if your kid had lice, you'd probably notice that too.

kori bates said...

Thank God my kids school do not have a nurse...LOL...I hope that they sent a letter home before they did this to the kids. This can and probably was so humilating (SP?) to so many kids in the school...and they wonder why there are so many kids with body issues.

A day in the Life... said...

I am very much NOT a fan of BMI charts.. I don't need a chart to tell me if my child is over/under weight. Give me a break..

Hope said...

My pediatrician would say that she is perfectly healthy. She's not to big and she's not to small. All children should be so lucky. As for the School Nurse, it sounds like she needs to be fired. Doing BMI's in children is 22 levels of wrong.

Beth said...

Wow! I'm an educator and we definately don't do this in our school. Our school nurse is there to provide an escape for the students, hand out Tums and peppermints, check for lice, give hearing and vision tests, hand out daily meds and give a lot of TLC to the kids. And to the teachers.

Jennifer said...

I think the wellness programs in schools are starting to go a bit too far. I was speaking with the mom of a first grader today and she mentioned in a worried sort of tone that her daughter wanted to bring cupcakes in for her birthday. With all the crap going on around us do we really need to stress out about sending birthday treats to school? I've got bigger fish to fry.

As for the rats nest. My 3yo has one of those and I also have barely escaped with my life after trying to sort it out. This nurse has obviously never had little girls.

Cami said...

That's a pretty good one! I myself received one from the school nurse informing me that they needed to know the specific kind of siezures my daughter had seven years ago. Then they wanted to know "how to treat her if it happened again," and it would be helpful if I could "instruct them on what to do once she returned to the classroom!" Anything ELSE I can do for ya? Lol! Cami

Anonymous said...

Josh got one of those letters in kindergarten but it said he was overweight and i had two weeks to take him to the doctor and had to have proof that i had taken him to the doctor.

of course, Josh is by no means overweight and i just threw it in the trash.

two weeks later i got a followup letter....two weeks after that i got another letter that had the tone that they were about to call Department of Child Welfare on me...

I cant remember what I actually did but I think i did HAVE to take him to the doctor who just LAUGHED

they were not going to let him stay in school until i had a doctor check him out...it was UNBELIEVABLE....

jean

Kelly said...

Oh my word, you are weird!

And I love it!!!!

Mary and Steve said...

I really did have a best friend named Lenore! I would say it's the same one but mine now lives in Cali.

Heather said...

Didn't you know they were going to doing this test so you could prep Camber for the test? Skipping breakfast, water pills and vomiting help models stay thin. You are never to young to start learning proper eating habits.

When we were "harassed" about our preemie daughter being small our family Dr. reminded me that I wasn't tall or heavy and my husband was tall and thin. Our other two kids were thin. Thin runs in the family so I needed to quit stressing.

Obviously you have a good handle on this. Thank goodness C. has you in her corner!

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

My guess is that Camber's neither over- nor underweight, but just got her numbers sent home to you in an ignorant form letter that went out to every parent with results. Too bad there's no explanation of what the results mean. It's great to know these folks are part of your child's education isn't it? Today, my kids brought home three thank you notes from teachers for the hot cocoa we gave them for Christmas. ONE of them knew how to spell COCOA, and there were other spelling mistakes too that just made me chuckle. Sing with me: "I believe the children are the future, teach them well and let them lead the way..."

Suburban Hippie said...

Nothing like getting a letter that covers all possible bases. I got one from the gifted and talented people at my son's school that left me utterly confused... further evidence that I was never gifted and talented material.

Anonymous said...

It was probably something the district mandated that she send home. Everyone needs to stop jumping on her case about it. As an educator I have to send notes home "informing" parents about a lot of scores too. If the parent doesn't understand she/he should ask for clarification.

And finally (Steph), do you know how many thank you notes we have to write? We're human too and make mistakes. Just because we make a spelling mistake doesn't nullify how hard we work to teach YOUR children. If you don't like it- home school, but cut the teachers a break.

Twinlinebackers said...

Seriously, you will go down in my book as the world's best mom if you write a Jana-esque letter back to your dear friend Lenore. I am DYING to see it! Please please please?

Steph said...

I am a school nurse and it is my job to perform yearly height/weight screenings. I recently heard that the wonderful state I live in is mandating that school nurses calculate BMI and if it is over a certain percentage, DSS needs to be involved! Are you kidding me??? If I am going to contact DSS, it is going to be because of abuse or neglect...not because of a kids BMI! These politicians need to start watching their own BMIs before they disrupt the lives of families!