A couple of weeks ago while we were getting ready for school, my
"Mommy, do I look fat in this?" (She was wearing her ski
I paused for a moment because I have been preparing for this
question, but not at 5 years old. I matter of factly replied,
"Well no, you look all nice and warm and cozy…(pause) Why would
you ask that?"
She replied, "Well, so and so said I looked fat in this."
"Oh, I see." I stated. "That wasn't very nice was it?"
We then had a conversation on the way to the car about how "fat"
is not a nice word to use to describe someone and that it can
really hurt someone's feelings. She just took it in stride and just
nodded and said, "okay mommy" and that was that. She was quiet all
the way to school.
My daughter has no self-esteem issues, trust me. She gloats in
front of the mirror whenever she wears a pretty dress and talks
highly of herself that she looks cute in the mirror. This comment
caught me by surprise because I am making big efforts raise her
with confidence and I felt like I was failing.
I take it personally. Growing up a "chubby" child back in the
day, being called fat at a time when being an overweight child was
not acceptable, it hurt my feelings. I guess it took me back for a
moment. I am very conscious about the words I choose to describe
myself in our home. I will not in front of my daughter say, "I feel
fat", "I look fat" or "I am fat." I have my days where I feel
uncomfortable in my skin, but I want my daughter to feel positive
about her body and how she feels, so I keep those comments to
myself or my husband.
I have learned we can pass our weight issues down to our
daughters and not realize that we are doing it. For me in my home,
it is important to keep things positive. Such as, I exercise to
keep my muscle strong so I can chase my kids or I eat healthy to
keep from getting sick and it makes me feel good. I wash my face to
keep my face clean and practice good hygiene. You get the
It bothered me. It bothered me so much that I emailed the
director of our school and copied my husband. Now before you over
think my reaction, we have a fantastic relationship with the
director at our private
school. She is encouraging, insightful and her wisdom on
how we sheppard our children far exceeds my expectations as I look
up to her for guidance and feedback. Her input is invaluable for me
and she is a mom of a teen-age girl.
So I explained what happened and asked if I was looking too much
into this? Was I overthinking that perhaps "fat" meant "big" to
them? Did the word "fat" mean "fat" as we would think or say it?
She got back to me and said:
"At this age they DO get really
sensitive about how they look (not because of the fat or
thin issue-that may start more around 2-4th grade, unless
they are really exposed to inappropriate discussions of beauty at
home or in the public arena) just if they think other kids like
what they are wearing-approval of friends and fitting in with a
group is more what happens big time at this age. This is the age
when they break into boy/girl groups (no girls allowed; only kids
with pink sparkly shoes can be in our club; if you don't do want I
say I'm not inviting you to my birthday party….) BIG developmental
stage of belonging to a group and becoming aware of being
same/different from others. We have kids every day who don't want
to want a to wear a hat because someone laughed or someone said
they were puffy in their snowpants. It is a common thing for kids
to comment on how fat, big or puffy snowsuits make them look.
It is not a beauty statement, just a concrete
observation. We find that many kindergarten and 1st
graders are very sensitive about it when someone comments on what
they are wearing, or says their name in a silly way, yet they don't
realize it when they do the same to a peer. A casual comment or
observation or a friend who is delighting in being silly can be so
hurtful to another, especially when misunderstood.
Here is what we do at
school…practice talking through the hurtful comment and other
scenarios the way we want them to eventually 'self-talk' so it will
become automatic as they grow. For example:
'Mary, I hear how sad you are that
the kids said you look fat in that snowsuit. Snowsuits do make
us look big or puffy, don't they? We need that extra padding
to stay warm. We are being so smart to layer up! Do you
like your snowsuit? Good, so do I! So if someone says something
about it, just say…I like my snowsuit and walk away.
Mary, this is a time when we need to
practice overlooking. If someone says something that you don't
agree with, you can disagree or not believe it. If you know it
doesn't matter, just overlook.'
I was relieved at what I read and loved the fact that our school
chooses to walk through these scenarios and roll play how they talk
to each other and the words they are using to describe certain
things can be hurtful, but also misunderstood. (After reading it
several times, some great lessons we can use as adults too.)
We often can jump to quick conclusions about how our young
children are speaking, not realizing their world view is much
different than ours, especially at such a young age. I feel
relieved that this was just "silly" talk among two little girls who
really did not understand completely their choice of words that was
used to describe how my daughter looked in her snowsuit.
Next week, I am going to talk about the importance of how
mothers AND fathers shape their daughter's confidence, self-esteem
and body image.
Jasmine blogs to inspire you to make positive, healthy changes.
See more of Jasmine's stories here.
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