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November 10, 2008

Mommy- Am I Fat?

J0120995 As I stare in disbelief at my seven-year-old, with her ever-so-slightly protruding belly and the sweet baby fat filling out her apple cheeks, I am taken aback by what would possibly possess her to utter those words. Instinctively I respond with, "You are beautiful, just as you are- every last inch of you is perfect... why are you asking me this?"

With tears welling up in the corners of her eyes my daughter says, "Rachel's nanny told me I shouldn't eat any of the cookies on the table because I'm getting fat," and then her voice trailed off and her little body began heaving as she sobbed.

Of course when we face these moments as parents we think we're supposed to have all the answers and make sure we never let our kids feel bad for even half a millisecond; a feat which is not humanely possible. (Unfortunately, despite my best efforts-as soon as she graduated from diapers, and spoke her first word, the control I thought I had over her little universe was all but lost). And yet, it is these very moments that catch you completely off-guard which you hope you can handle and tie up into a pretty little bow- as opposed to them being the catalyst for more painful incidents down the road.

I walk up to her, get on my knees take her hands in mine and look her squarely in the face and say, "Madi, you have to remember that sometimes even adults can say mean and hurtful things and you just have to ignore those comments.Your body is perfect and I hope you'll just erase what Rachel's nanny said from your mind. The word FAT is an ugly word, and even though adults are supposed to know better- sometimes they don't!"

Although Madi wiped her eyes, smiled at me and hugged me back when I put my arms around her, I know my daughter has a minuscule threshold for pain and these words will linger with her for a long time to come.

It seems that despite all the strides we've made as the post feminist generation of women, the majority of us still  succumb to the stereotypical ideals shoved down our throats by mass media images- often contrived and propagated by men, and harshly judge one another by them. But we're big girls- we can stick up for ourselves and fight our battles. But cutting down a seven-year-old and instilling in her the idea that in order to be accepted she needs to be rail thin in my opinion is a form of abuse.

Okay- maybe that's a little harsh- and you might think I'm one of those mothers who is oblivious and unwilling to accept that my daughter is flawed-- I'm not. I know my daughter has a bit of a belly, but she certainly wouldn't be categorized as fat by any standards. I just hate the fact that at seven years old her self-esteem is already being sabotaged by the size of her jeans.

I know I'm not going to change the world and even if I tried to rid all media of skinny bitches- unless I had the deep pockets of a Sumner Redstone I pretty much don't stand a chance-- but I'm certainly going to try!!

Melissa Chapman is the Staten Island Advance Kids in the City Columnist and also contributes to Time Out NY Kids.


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