Saturday, April 21, 2012
I hugged her and said "Does your body do what you want it to do? Can you do a cartwheel when you want to? Can you run as far as you want to? Do you have enough energy to swim when you want to?"
She nodded slowly.
I told her that that is all that matters. If her body is strong, and does what she wants it to do, then she is fine.
Then I asked her "What would happen if you *were* overweight?"
And she said "I would be embarassed."
And I (dying a little on the inside) said "Why? Would the size of your body change who you are on the inside? Would it make you less smart or kind or funny?"
And she told me a story.
It seems that earlier this week Miss A was having difficulties with a friend. The friend had suddenly ditched her for another girl, and the two were now whispering behind their hands and giving Miss A sideways glances. It hurt her feelings. She tried to talk to her friend, but the friend would walk away and pretend she hadn't heard Miss A.
It made Miss A feel so sad. She wrote poems about the situation and cried. A lot.
Then! Miraculously the friend came back. She gave Miss A a cootie-catcher in morning assembly and wanted to sit next to her at lunch. They giggled together and all was right with the world.
At recess the friend wanted to walk around the playground and talk. Miss A was thrilled. As they walked they saw another girl running on the track.
Miss A's friend said "Ewww. Look at her running so slowly. I bet she's so slow because she's fat and she's fat because she eats so much and that means she isn't very smart. I don't like her, do you?"
And Miss A said that yes, actually she *does* like this other girl--very much. The friend rolled her eyes and walked away from Miss A.
And at this point in the conversation with Miss A, when she is recounting this for me with tears in her eyes, I can barely hear her over the rush of angry thoughts screaming in my brain.
I work SO HARD to help my daughter be proud of her body, be proud of all her friends, see how strength and smarts can come in bodies of all sizes...and the words of one seven year old start to undermine those efforts.
So I took a deep breath.
And we talked about how we have friends and family members of all sizes. And they are all smart, kind, funny, and worthy of our love--whether they are small like person X or larger like person Y. We talked our our friends--person N and person S--both of whom are exceptional athletes. One is big and one is small but their size has no bearing on their accomplishments in their sports of choice. We talked about how Miss A is smaller than many of her friends but that doesn't mean that she is bad or stupid.
We talked about how it is ok (great even!) to acknowledge that people come in all sizes, just like they come in all colors, but that the way a person looks on the outside has little to do with what they are like on the inside.
We talked about our dogs: our three-legged beagle looks cute and harmless, and our big pitbull-mix looks strong and scary to some people--but at home it is the beagle who steals food, chases the cat and barks and lunges at other dogs. The pitbull-mix rolls on her back for dogs of all sizes, and almost never barks.
Most of all we talked about how today Miss A is one size, but that over time her body shape and size may change. We talked about how that is a normal part of growing up. We talked about how her body and mind will tell her when they need food for fuel, and they will also tell her when they have had enough food/fuel. We talked about how her dad and I believe in taking care of our bodies, and her body, by making healthy meals and by moving our bodies every day.
Then we wrapped things up by discussing whether we thought her "friend" was being kind to her OR the other girl by making those comments at recess. And she decided that in fact her friend's words were mean--they made Miss A feel uncomfortable, and they were intentionally unkind towards the other girl.
I told her how proud I was of her for sticking up for the other girl and not just agreeing with her friend's mean words. It is hard to be rejected by someone for days and then have them come back into your life, only to reject you once again.
It would have been easy for Miss A to agree with her friend (after all, no one else heard the mean comments) just for the sake of avoiding more conflict--but she didn't.
Second grade is hard. Friendships are hard. Maintaining positive body image is hard.
And I hate that my sweet girl has to deal with any of this.
But I am so proud of the person she is becoming.