Why skinny genes are easier to find than school trousers

eric uniform
SUITS YOU, SIR: Eric rocking his thigh-friendly school trousers

This week we received a letter from our local health trust. On top of our excitement about receiving some post that wasn’t a utility bill, this letter gave us another reason to celebrate: it contained written ‘evidence’ that our son is not fat.

This came as a surprise for two reasons. Firstly, anyone who has tried to pick Eric up will confirm he’s rather heavy. Secondly, our struggle to find a pair of school trousers Eric could actually get past his thighs had me convinced he was morbidly obese.

Despite trying to be organised and buying his school uniform back in June, my son remained uniform-less until the beginning of September. And those months in between were super-stressful.

Admittedly, Eric’s never going to win slimmer of the year. His head and chin are rather generous, but as far as I can tell, the size of one’s head has no bearing on trouser size. Besides, his tummy is flat and – dare I say it – quite muscular. He’s what you might call ‘solid’.

So, it completely bamboozled me why we had to try 16 different styles and sizes of school trousers before we found a pair that fit.

The ‘problem’ (although it shouldn’t be a problem, because he’s not overweight, and besides, he’s only 4) came down to Eric’s thighs, which we quickly discovered were wider than his waist.

Most retailers only sell age 4 trousers with elasticated waists. They’re marketed as ‘easy up’ or ‘pull on’, which in theory is a great idea. In reality, it was nigh-on impossible to pull them any higher than Eric’s knees. He couldn’t get them on himself, but once I stepped in to help (and rubbed his skin raw in the process) the trousers fit reasonably well. If anything, they were baggy on the waist and bottom, but I felt it was unfair to send Eric to school in trousers that required a tag team of adults to help him go to the toilet.

We went up a size, to age 5, and were faced with the same problem, only this time the trousers were far too big on the waist and bottom and about 4.5inches too long on the leg. We tried Next, Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, and found no joy.

Even M&S – a shop I’ve always relied on for the kind of generous sizing that means you can buy clothes in a size smaller than usual, thus making you feel better about being bigger than you care to admit – failed to come up with the goods.

Rather than elasticated waists, we needed trousers with a hook eye fastening and a zip so Eric could undo them himself, slip them on and then fasten them up. Was this too much to ask? It would appear so. Most of the shops only sold zip-up trousers for age 6 and above. Tesco sold them for age 5 and above, but the trousers were gigantic and would have needed serious alterations to the waist and leg.

Despite being assured by a health visitor that Eric was not fat, the issues we had trying to get school trousers over his thighs made me think maybe she was simply being polite. So, I ordered another 5 pairs of trousers, this time in the ‘plus size’ range. Eric had no problems getting these on and off himself but you could fit three of him in there, and they all looked like clown pants.

Respite came in the form of Matalan, which is the only retailer I found with the foresight to sell trousers with a hook-eye fastening and a zip for all ages. And here’s the thing; the age 3 fit Eric perfectly, reinforcing my belief he’s not at all obese.

This week’s letter from the health trust has further reinforced that belief, though it has made me wonder what I’d have done, or how I’d have felt, if the letter had stated Eric was overweight – especially considering this week’s headlines about a team of researchers who suggest weight is very much linked to genes after all. Can portion control really make a difference if your genes are telling your thighs to cling onto those French fries and never let them go? And how accurate are these child weigh-ins anyway? I’ve already spoken to one friend who received a letter suggesting her son was overweight, when one glance at him would reassure anyone he’s far from it. I’m keen to know how many other parents faced the same thing.

I appreciate this blog is a little late to help anyone who struggled to buy a school uniform for the start of the 2018 school term, but if your child has chunky legs but a small waist then it’s worth bearing Matalan in mind for this year. Plus, they sell uniforms year-round, so you can order your 2019 uniform now and avoid any stress come July. Bonus!

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