I write this post with a heavy heart. Many parents are affected by bullying, whether directly or indirectly, however, I naively never expected that my child would be on the receiving end. I have a 10-year-old daughter; though most people think she is 12-13 because she’s very tall for her age. While she is healthy, she is overweight. We have taken all of the appropriate steps to make sure that there are no medical issues behind her weight issues; we eat healthily, we promote activity, we do everything we can.
She has always been the tallest in her class and she is no stranger to comments about her weight. Each year since she started school, at least one girl has mentioned her weight, and each year it’s taken everything I have to not go to school and trip a kid in the lunchroom.
Yes, my better judgment prevailed.
She used to tell me when someone would comment but as the years went on, she stopped telling me when it happened and would instead bring it up later, sometimes years later, when we were laying in bed. Every time she brings it up I give her my full attention and we talk about it: how it made her feel, reassure her that she is beautiful and smart and what other people think doesn’t matter.
But I always wonder if I’m saying or doing enough to combat the hurt that she’s felt.
The comments have ranged from the general, “you’re fat” and “why are you so big” to “are you pregnant?” Seriously, a first-grader asking another first-grader if they are pregnant?! I thought I had handled it each time. She wouldn’t bring up that event again. I thought she moved on. However, during conversations with her, twice this week, I realized we are far from over the hump. Most recently, while laying in bed she said “Mom, you know when we left San Antonio? Well, on my last day of school my friend, well I guess not my friend, asked if she could tell me something that might be kinda mean, I said, ‘yes,’ and she said, ‘You’re really fat.’”
Insert my silent ugly cry in the darkened room.
I tried to find the words to ease her mind, to make her feel worthy no matter what this girl told her. Anything to make her feel better! All I could muster, though, was “you are not fat baby, you are beautiful.” I wanted to have a beautiful moving speech about inner beauty and how others being mean is more about them than it is about us, but at that moment I was broken for her. I felt sadness and wished I could take away her pain, I felt disappointment that this wasn’t something that I could protect her from, and I felt hope that she would grow from this experience and it would only make her a stronger woman someday.
As women in this world, we are inundated with what the “right” size is, what the right clothes are, what the right house looks like. There is so much pressure on us to be perfect. How do we learn to love ourselves so that our daughters can love themselves? It starts with us teaching our children kindness and acceptance for themselves and others and practicing what we preach. I struggle with body image and self-acceptance, but I try every day to do better because I have a daughter who is watching me.
We have to do better. We have to teach the next generation that everyone is different and making comments about someone’s appearance isn’t ok and it is hurtful. We have to show them with our actions: not criticize ourselves or others and not allow or accept this behavior.
And most of all #bekind