Sunday, October 25, 2015

Pure Innocence

"I've gotten used to you being fat now."

Mary (6) and I were putting away her laundry, just the two of us, when she very cheerfully announced her observation. This followed upon her confusion when I delivered Thomas three months ago and still looked so big that first week when she thought my body would go back to how it looked before I was pregnant.

Apparently she has "gotten used" to my "being fat now."

I felt a punch in my (fat? ha ha) gut. I decided not to take it personally but that I did need to give her a lesson in tact lest she ever say this to someone else. I have long made an effort not to talk about my fluctuating weight or any body image issues in front of my children because I don't want them, the girls especially, learning to be obsessed with weight any earlier than they will anyway in this image-obsessed culture of death.

So, I replied after a thoughtful pause, "Honey, I'm going to tell you something just so that you won't say that to another lady. You see, ladies don't like to look fat or be told they are fat."

"Why not?"

I replied while trying to hang up clothing casually, "Because it hurts our hearts. See, mamas still want to look like we did when we were in our twenties and we were so much thinner because we hadn't had babies yet. We still want to look pretty. So, it's important that you don't refer to a lady as being fat."

With utter surprise and innocence, Mary asked me, "Why would being skinny make a lady look prettier?!"

"Why would being skinny make a lady look prettier?!"

Tears sprang to my eyes at her precious statement of understanding. I'm so aware of my ill-fitting clothing, how it's physically uncomfortable to move right now, how it's really shocking to compare the Mama-of-Five me to how trim I was during my highly athletic twenties, but my daughter isn't aware of any of those things. I don't even think she's heard of the word "diet" and doesn't know what a calorie is. As the mother in particular, I have such a weight of responsibility for how I will present to the girls the perception of our bodies and whether any of my efforts to eat well or exercise are for vanity or for keeping healthy the vessel God gave me to do His will.

So I brushed away my tears and felt my mind spinning for a long silence before I answered with a bit of an emotion-choked voice, "Mamas want to be healthier. That's why we want to be skinnier like we used to be, so that we can be healthier. That's all."

"Oh. Okay, Mama!"


  1. Wow, what difficult comments to navigate. And HUGS because even though innocent comments, they sting so much to hear. My own 6 year old would say with an innocent smile that it looked like I still had a baby in my tummy. Or she would like to pinch and poke my soft, bubbly stomach. I would recoil and not enjoy that, and would have to ask her to stop and she would say, "but it's so soft!". Oy. I did have to gently explain that it is not polite to talk about how big or little someone might be because it can hurt feeling. This was a difficult minefield for me to navigate when I started dieting and exercising. The videos I do show really skinny, immodestly dressed women and they talk about losing weight and having "the body you've always wanted" a lot. No easy answers. I tried to explain that it is healthier to be slim. I am trying to be more stealth about my eating choices, while still eating a variety of foods.

  2. Thank you for sharing this thought-provoking exchange, Katherine. Your answers were great.

  3. I adore this. Jason and I were having a discussion yesterday about this topic and how we can help our children not let their idea of self worth get wrapped up in image. And ways we can change our language so as not to feed their insecurities. I still have so many hang ups about myself, and looking back, many come from comments made by my mom...not mean, malicious comments, but well-meaning comments like "You look too pale; you need to wear lipstick." Such a tricky road to navigate.