Two weeks ago-yes it has taken me that long to recover from this incident-I brought my 8-year-old twin daughters to Target for an impromptu shopping trip. As we were sitting in the cafe’ chomping on a very salty soft pretzel, one of my daughters asked me who I thought would grow up to be fat, her or her twin. Puzzled, I choked down the ICEE I was slurping and asked her why she thought one of them would be fat. Why would you think such a thing? She looked at me, slightly embarrassed, and said softly, “well, because Daddy is skinny, and you’re…not.”
Before you jump to the conclusion that my daughter is a jerk, let me just say this: I am fat. I have always struggled with my weight, and when I had finally gotten to a point where I was happy with my body, I was blessed with a twin pregnancy. The road back from that birth has not been easy, as most mothers will attest. Being a mom consumes you, and one day you realize that you haven’t really cared for yourself in that way in a really long time. Or, maybe that’s a nice, convenient excuse, I don’t know anymore. All I know is my daughter’s words hit me like a freight train, not because they hurt my feelings-I’ve been called a lot worse-but because her words opened my eyes to this: My daughters have no idea what makes people fat. They have no clue how to keep caloric intake down, which foods linger longer than others, or any of the other helpful and necessary information they need to help control their weight as adults, and you know what? It’s all my fault.
After having read 95,888,888 articles about how we as women are destroying one another with words, or how mothers can imprint their body image issues onto their young, I issued a moratorium on the word “fat” pretty early on. My daughters have never heard me say it, and thankfully have never heard anyone call me by that moniker. I’ve never weighed myself in front of them, or even uttered the word “diet.” I’m pretty strict about what they eat, and try my best to model “good behavior” and “self-control.” But now, here I was faced with a teaching moment, and I couldn’t help but think of it this way- In the effort to prevent future self-loathing, am I setting my daughters up for an unhealthy lifestyle? Would it be the end of the world if my daughter knew that sugary drinks and candy make you fat? So here’s what I said:
“You’re right honey, Mommy is a little fat. But, I’m working on eating healthy and exercising so that I can be healthier. That’s why Mommy doesn’t eat a lot of junk food.”
I don’t know what I expected. But what I got was a crooked little smile and a quick story about some Minecraft video they had watched earlier that day. My other daughter wasn’t even paying attention.
Look, I don’t know what the answer is, how to shape the outcome of my daughter’s self-image. All I know is, I tend to lean towards no information being on par with misinformation. I want my daughter to love her body, and to accept whatever shape or form it may take, but I also want her to be healthy and to work towards being healthy as an adult. Not skinny, healthy. And I believe it is my job as Mommy to make sure she has all of the information she needs to make the best possible decision she can.