“Why Are You Fat?” and Other Words That Hurt My Daughter

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My seven-year-old daughter has been body-shamed since kindergarten. She’s in second grade now, and nothing has changed; in fact, it’s gotten worse.

I don’t know how I’m supposed to start this because I feel terrible even having to admit this is part of our family’s reality. Really, it’s not even about us; it’s my daughter’s reality. All I care about is her—her thoughts, her feelings, and her body being as healthy as it can be.

What I’m about to say next, I’m not proud of. When I realized her body shape would put her in this exact position, I was worried even then. I knew this would happen as soon as she started school. I’m not going to describe my daughter’s body for all the internet to read. It shouldn’t matter what she looks like. I didn’t know how to prepare her for what she would face with her classmates as soon as she started school. I failed you, my sweet girl. I’m so sorry.

And yet, here we are. Every day, she deals with the stares, the questions, and the comments from her classmates. “Why do you look like that?” “Skinny people run faster than fat people.” These are just a couple of the comments she faces daily at school. She deals with it every time she needs new clothes. There are certain things I know she sees on the rack that she wishes she felt comfortable wearing. As much as I don’t like it, we’ve started learning what types of clothing work best for her.

As soon as I thought the comments had subsided, or maybe she wasn’t letting it bother her as much anymore, my daughter showed me something she wrote in her personalized notebook, “I believe people can be skinny in their own way.” And my heart broke all over again.

How does this happen to our kids? How do they learn what is an “acceptable” body type? I’d like to blame it all on society. But do I own part of the blame, too? I’d be lying if I said I am super happy with how my body looks at this moment. Should it bother me? Not really, but it does. Did I somehow instill an unconscious expectation of what her own body should look like?

The other day, my daughter and I were watching one of the Harry Potter movies together, and Dumbledore had a line that really hit me in the gut. “Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.” I never thought I’d find such wisdom from a children’s book series. And then I thought about a wonderful post written by a fellow Indy Moms writer about teaching our kids to be kind instead of nice. I reread it, and she makes some great points. I think we can all benefit from reading her words. I honestly believe we can all be nice yet at the same time, also be unkind.

I can’t say if the other children who make fun of my daughter’s body aren’t nice. I bet they are nice. But their words were very unkind. As much as I’d like to shield her from the taunting, I know I can’t.

All I know is that I must teach my kids to be kind—to themselves, to others, and to the world around them.


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