My daughter called me fat. Talk about a catty punch in the flabby gut. But probably not for the reason you might think. I was not offended by her perception of my body habitus. I was hurt that my beautiful daughter at the so young age of 3 understands that “fat” is not merely the name for the layer of cells underneath the skin of all animals. She understood that “fat” was bad. And it may be my fault.
As a rule there is no catty self talk in my house. There is no “I feel so fat today” or “my thighs are so gross” or even “omg, when did he get so huge.” We just don’t do it. So when my 3 year old daughter pointed to my bare tummy, laughed and said “Mama, you’re getting fat!” I knew she had not heard that endearing expression from me.
Turns out a kid at school has been calling my daughter fat. And just when I think that I have conquered those fat, self-loathing demons they rear their ugly heads at me through my daughter. And in the moment where I should be the strong, unbiased mother doling out sage wisdom about body image and beauty and kindness I revert to the shy, whimpering, too-sensitive girl who was teased for being fat.
So with hindsight being 20/20 here is what I wish I had said:
You are too young to fully understand how badly words can hurt. Part of me hopes you will never truly understand. I would love to shield you from all of those hurts but I know that is not possible.
I’m going to tell you a secret…I’m not perfect. I have always struggled with my weight and with accepting my body. I wasted too many years of my life feeling “less than” because I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin.
So when you told me that a kid in your class called you fat I automatically wanted to kick that kid in the shins wanted to cuddle you and make you feel better after hearing that someone had been cruel to you. But I may have been misguided. I assumed that the comment hurt your feelings because it would have hurt mine.
As a kid I listened to classmates call me fat and I believed them. I believed that there was something wrong with the way I looked, something that I should change about myself to make other people more comfortable. But that is where I was wrong. I was always perfect just the way I was. And so are you.
Your body will change in so many ways as you grow and mature. Some changes will come so suddenly they will give you whiplash. There may be times when you look in the mirror and feel unhappy with what you see there. It’s ok to want to be stronger and more fit as long as you understand that happiness doesn’t come from a certain size or from a carton of Blue Bell. All that matters is that you remain healthy and love yourself.
I promise to continue to curb the body comments, not just the “fat” ones, because it’s just rude to comment on the nature of someone else’s body. I promise to keep having this conversation with you as you grow older.
And baby girl, fat is not a bad word. Your mama spent too long waiting for her body to be perfect and expecting that perfection to bring her happiness. But true happiness starts on the inside. Your worth is based on your humanity, your selflessness and how you treat others. Your strength comes from your muscles but also your heart.
So my sweet, silly, funny, creative, musical Butterbean let’s continue to grow together.
All my love,
Mama (aka AIBC Team Member Ashley)
#fatisnotabadword #mamalovesyou #bodyimage