How Do I Respond to Comments from Kids About My Body?
As I established in Suit Up, Mama, I’m living my life in a fat body. It’s not good or bad, it just is. I certainly wish my body were smaller sometimes, and I do exercise and try to be healthy. But I also accept it for what it is: my body that allows me to exist on this corporeal plane is fat.
Several times in my life, children have commented on my body, specifically its size. Long ago, pre-kids and when I actually wasn’t even at my heaviest, an eight-year-old friend bluntly informed me I was fat, as if I didn’t know. It was an awkward moment, and I don’t remember how I responded, if I did at all.
Kids are honest and straightforward, sometimes to a fault. I don’t want to limit their expression or to think that talking about bodies with trusted people is bad. It’s good! But there are social skills learned through these types of interactions. I’d rather the lesson be “ask in private with someone you trust” rather than “fat people are bad, but we shouldn’t tell them that to their faces.”
Recently, one of my daughter’s friends made a similar comment, using the words squishy and fat to describe me as we were eating lunch together at a restaurant. It wasn’t mean, just weird. I didn’t respond at all in the moment. Her mom, my friend, said something like, “That isn’t nice,” and we moved on. The moment passed very quickly, and to be fair, I’d just demolished a giant burrito after getting overly hangry due to a too-long morning at Knock Knock. I’m sure the wheels of, “She eats a lot, so that’s why she’s fat,” may have been turning, and I connected those dots later as I reflected on the moment. (No regrets on that burrito, though!)
I didn’t say what I should have in the moment, but I did get to have a conversation with my seven year old about it later. She understood in the moment it was wrong (and I think her friend did, too), but probably not WHY it was wrong. My daughter came over right after the comment was made to sit in my lap, perhaps in a protective-of-me move.
I was able to tell her later, when we were alone together, that fat bodies are good bodies, too. My body is good, and also fat is not all that I am. I am kind, strong, smart, passionate and all kinds of other things, too. It’s not nice or polite to comment on anyone else’s body, especially in public like that. But I made sure my daughter knew she can talk to me and ask me about anything, including my body or anyone else’s, when it’s just us.
I hope by sharing this anecdote I can encourage you to have conversations with your kids too–about bodies in general and that people have so much value beyond their appearance or size. If you do, let me know how it goes, and what insights you gain.