Don’t call my daughter fat. Don’t you dare.
I am raising her to be proud of her strong muscles and body. She grins when BrightSide and I praise her strength, and I don’t want your concept of proper poundage messing with her mind. I’m raising her to believe that being active and fit is more important than being willowy, and that her body type looks healthy with muscles and curves. I don’t talk to your slender daughter about needing to put more meat on her bones — she’s probably already getting her fair share of body commentary as it is, and if the girl’s healthy and slim then that’s great.
But my daughter is tall for her age and has a muscular build. There’s even a name for it: mesomorphic — someone whose body is sturdy and muscular. This is the body God gave her. We want her to be comfortable in her own skin, and every time you comment on her weight or the size of her butt you chip away at that positive body image we’re working so hard to encourage. Bear’s doctor also thinks she’s just fine, thank you, and we put a little more stock in her medical opinion than your comments.
You’re probably thinking kids are mean, they call each other names all the time. That’s true, and we’ve dealt with our fair share of teary afternoons when someone at school called her fat and Bear came home in tears. But I’m not talking about the kids.
I’m talking about the adult who told my daughter she’s overweight based on her age and weight alone. Let’s not worry ourselves with height or muscle mass. You’re eight years old and this many pounds? You’re overweight. I learned about this the day Bear (my THIRD GRADER) was debating whether she “needed the extra calories” in an ice cream treat because (patting her belly) “this isn’t baby fat anymore.” Oh. My. God.
I’m also talking to the adults who think it’s okay to joke around with her about how much she weighs, that she must weigh more than her brother now, and that “baby’s got back.” On what planet is it okay to say these things to a little girl? She is processing your words. She is absorbing your message. They make a difference in how she sees herself and her body.
Is it any wonder we have elementary school girls with body issues? You thought that didn’t start until puberty? Well, look around. Girls’ bodies are changing earlier now, and the world around them typically elevates stick thin, air brushed beauties to star status. Is it any wonder that being called fat is the ultimate insult? How will they ever feel beautiful if their scale number is too high or their body has curves?
Tell my daughter she’s strong and talented and amazing. Tell her you wish you could do push ups or climb a 30-foot rope to the ceiling like she can. Tell her she’s healthy and beautiful and perfect just the way she is.
And lose the word “fat” from your vocabulary. You really have no business telling a child that their body is unacceptable.