The Pencil Test: Conversations With Girl Child

the pencil testGirl came to me recently and said, “Mom, I don’t think I’m fit.” My jaw dropped. She is an active, healthy, average 12 year old.

“Why don’t you think you’re fit?”

“Because I did the Pencil Test.”


The Pencil Test

What’s the pencil test? I won’t go into to detail because I want to respect my child’s boundaries – if you want to know about the pencil test, you can look it up. This isn’t the upper body pencil test, Girl was referring to the lower body one. That’s an important detail for this conversation.

She demonstrated it, and that was a moment of clarity for me.

“Wait. Do you think that’s a sign of something bad?”

“I think it means I’m not fit.”

“Honey, whether or not you can hold a pencil there is not a sign of anything other than you are a normal, developing girl with an appropriate amount of body fat to support your growth. If you want to exercise with your dad or me, we would love that. It’s a healthy habit. Just don’t do it because you think you need to in order to be thin or there is anything wrong with the way you are right now.”

“But I saw it on Dr. Oz when I was over at Grandma’s. They said on the show it means you need to work on it because it was a sign of having too much fat.”

“Dr. Oz is trying to sell his show for ratings and money. This capitalizes exactly on the fear tv shows like Dr. Oz try to create: that women are somehow not as valuable unless they have a tiny some-kind-of-body part. You are more than the size of your individual pieces. It’s a distraction you don’t need to concern yourself with at 12 years old. You look exactly the way you are supposed to look for the growing kid you are right now. Look at me. Should I demonstrate the pencil test for you? By that standard, I’ll fail, guaranteed. Do you think I’m not fit?”

(smiles) “No, you run and exercise and stuff.”

“Exactly. I don’t concern myself with how big or small my butt is. I have other things to think about, and so do you.”

Somehow, somewhere, my own teenage and young adult obsession with my appearance faded in the distance while I was looking at my daughter and telling her she is more than the size of her parts. She should always look at herself that way.

You are more than the size of your parts.