Yesterday we went shopping at a department store. While I was browsing my seven year old daughter was dancing in a mirror a few feet away. I hear her excitedly say to a young woman “Do you have a baby growing in your tummy? Are you pregnant?” The woman shyly said “No”. Before I could get to her my very confused and innocent daughter followed up with ” We’ll if there’s no baby in there why is your belly so big?” Before the woman had a chance to answer I grabbed my child, apologized, and quickly walked in the other direction. I leaned down and whispered to her that it was impolite to talk about other people’s bodies, and how they look, because it may hurt their feelings. She was still expecting an answer to her question so I explained that when people eat too much sometimes food, and don’t get enough exercise they build up extra fat under their skin. This answer seemed acceptable to her, and the conversation was dropped.
I walked away feeling pleased with how I handled the situation. After all I was direct, and matter of fact. I had not used derogatory terms or put a judgment on the woman. I always have had body image issues, and I was determined not to pass them down to my children. We talk about being healthy or unhealthy, and the terms fat or skinny are not used in my house. We talk about how God makes each of us differently be it hair color/texture , eyes, skin color or body type. I thought I was doing a bang up job when it came to this issue.
After retelling this story to a friend I came to the realization that my actions had unintentionally taught her more than my words. By whisking her away like I did, and admonishing her against talking to people about their bodies I implied that the woman had something to be ashamed of. I projected my own uncomfortableness with my body onto this stranger. I assumed that she would be embarrassed about her body. It never occurred to me that she may have been a young confident woman who had made her lifestyle choices, and was perfectly happy with the way she looked. I never gave her a chance to answer for herself. Soooo even though I didn’t come right out and say ” we do not talk to fat people about being fat because it is something they should be embarrassed about. Being fat is shameful so you better take care to never get fat.” We all know kids pay more attention to our actions than our words. Huge Mommy Fail!!!