“Because you’re mine, I walk the line” — Johnny Cash
Hi, my lovelies. Last week my friend Kamy shared with me that she was concerned about the body image messages her daughter, my god daughter and one of the cutest baby girls I know, was being exposed to. I asked her to share her experience, as only a momma bear could, with all of us. And no, you don’t have to be a mommy to relate, if you have a special little girl in your life that you love then this is for you too, because helping a little girl to grow into a confident young woman takes the involvement and love of the community around her.
My daughter, Giselle, is the kind of kid who sleeps in on the weekends like her Mom, but gets up and screams to the world, “Let’s do this!” –Seriously!
She loves to ride her bike, fights like a fiend with her older brother. She’s on point with her Karate, sharp as a tack in school and filled with devilish wit! She’s a cannonball of energy and fierceness. She and her brother are all that is right in the world.
As a Mom I’ve been very conscious of how my children would and should grow into their own confident self-identity. I thought I had covered all the bases as best I could for my daughter. Lately though, I began to notice a little shadow in her shine.
You see, she knows her oblong little girl body is built differently from the girls she sees frolicking on those posters in Target and Justice while we hunt for her clothes. The impact really began to hit her when a friend of hers began to slap at her skin “jokingly” to emphasize that unlike them she was built with a little jiggle. In that moment and in the months to follow it didn’t matter to her how smart she was, how strong and fit, or how creative she was, she was plagued by one question and when she came to me with it I thought I was ready.
“Mom, am I fat?” She said with her big brown eyes sad and perplexed.
I answered quickly as best I could, “Would it make you less amazing, creative or fit and capable?”
“No” she says in a small voice. Eventually, I patiently got her to admit that she notices that she’s different from the other girls and more importantly they notice too and apparently make it a point to notice in larger groups. My daughter has fallen prey to frenemies and defends them staunchly while they erode her confidence.
I put on my Mom cape and headed over to school to have a talk with her teacher. After a quick classroom table re-seating things have gotten a little bit better…riggghhtt?! Well not quite. I know it’s out of my hands now because my daughter thinks I’m clouded in Mommy vision which doesn’t let me see her the way everyone else does. It’s a right of passage, I know it is, but I want her to come through it stronger.
I asked her older cousin (who she looks just like) to have a little pep talk with her. I’m sad to say that the pep talk didn’t do such a great job.
I’m now scrambling to find the tools to help her. The tools I never had when I was confronted with my own otherness of pudgiblity and babyfattedness. I show her images of women of all different sizes and weights. I point out the vast differences in their body types and how that impacts what you see, and try to explain that ultimately their bodies don’t determine who they are. Yeah, those images are of adults and my daughter is watching Lumpy Space Princess on TV. A plethora of dumb chubbies are in her daily cartoons slamming her along with the kid at school and I just want to scream. I can’t help her I can’t make her see. I am a chubby feminist flop…
Then out of nowhere she comes to me and says, “Mom did you know if I was built like a Disney Princess or Barbie I wouldn’t be healthy?! I would most probably die?!” “Yes that’s true, hun,” I responded.
“Yep, I’m glad I’m not gonna be like that. It isn’t good.” — Lol, my kid rocks so hard!
Now, we haven’t come out the other side of this thing. I know that it’s a constant fight to remain confident when you’re just that side of different, but she’s walking her own line just fine. In the meantime and through whatever happens, I’ll be walking beside her, mom cape in tow.