By: Brittany Weber
Have you ever tried on an outfit in front of your little girl, and asked, “Do I look fat in this?” or “Does this make me look too big?” Think of who you might be asking them to (or in front of). Questions like these could unknowingly be planting a tiny seed in your daughter’s mind; that seed of warped perception.
When I first began dating my now husband, I remember attending swim lessons for his daughter. Every time I would see her, she would cover her stomach with her hand, or make a negative remark about the way she looked in her swimsuit. She was nine. It broke my heart. I noticed the comments became more frequent and weren’t limited to just the swimming pool. I racked my brain wondering how she could have such an untrue impression of herself. I thought about how I was at her age. I had crooked teeth, the thickest bangs on the planet, and loved running around in baggy clothes. My physical appearance was the furthest thing on my mind, and to be honest, I couldn’t have been happier!
I have always combated her negative self-talk with positive affirmations. I am quick to tell her how beautiful she is, how smart she is, how perfectly made she is. She doesn’t take my admirations well, but I won’t stop dishing them out!
Here’s the thing, my stepdaughter is about the same size as me…and her biological mother. I began to take notice of a pattern forming. She would come over, and I would compliment her outfit, pants, whatever. My compliments were most often met with “Thank you. My mom didn’t like this, so she gave it to me.”
It made me realize two things:
· Stop talking about your weight!
· Do not share clothes with your daughter!
I’ll address the first point. I figured she was hearing from her mother, “Does this make me look too heavy?” as her mom would be preparing for a date or getting ready for an event. Maybe she was overhearing small talk amongst her mom and her mom’s gal pals? Either way, it brought to light a teachable moment for me. If ever I was going to stomp the body shaming voices within her, I must forgo any negative talk about myself, and especially in front of her.
Aside from needless questions to a young girl, it’s worth noting the sizable damage brewing from a wardrobe consisting of primarily your mother’s clothes. This brings me to my second point; It’s cutting off the value of her own fragile, blossoming confidence. Even though she and I could absolutely swap clothes at any time (and I’m sure she can tell), I don’t believe it would be fair to her at this age. Her undeveloped mind doesn’t deserve to give attention to doubtful thoughts, especially ones I can prevent. This isn’t sending a reasonable message of body positivity to a growing child, who already feels uneasy being the same size as her mom, stepmom, and twice the size as her older brother. It crushes me to hear her nervously inquire about the way something fits that was once hanging in her mother’s room. It’s the pesky voice of her parent’s own insecurities being forced into her mind. Not only is she wrapped up in mom’s clothes (literally) but also in mom’s sense of mom’s own self! Never mind the fact that it doesn’t allow her the opportunity to build her own sense of self-expression, and identity with things she may or may not like.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved playing dress up in my mother’s closest. However, those were her items that I could play in. They weren’t for me to have secondhand. A dress you once said made you feel fat, then handed over to your elementary aged daughter doesn’t become an exciting game of “dress up” anymore. Dress up loses its appeal when clothes are given after being labeled by the giver (your mother) as too tight or too loose. It brings a confusing element to the situation when a nine-year-old recognizes that she is the same size as her adult mother. Like I mentioned, she may see it for herself. However, you validate that thought when giving hand me downs to her; The hand me downs you mentioned you didn’t like because of how they “looked” on you. This can cause a little girl to question those articles of clothing, question how she will look in them herself, and question why she may be progressing at a faster rate.
Three of my mom’s four daughters had eating disorders. Not because of her commenting on our weight, but because there are “Regina George’s” that really exist in our schools, on television, social media, all over the place! If we let that voice of self-doubt creep in and set up camp, it’s opening a world of hurt that is difficult to mend.
My suggestion is to wait. Let her grasp her developing figure. Save certain pieces you want to share with your daughter when she’s older. Don’t select a complex time in her life when she’s trying to figure out how her boobs grew over night, or why she’s holding more weight in certain places than others. We were all awkwardly coming into our own as teenagers. It’s already a weird, insecure stage of life. In our homes, we should celebrate the uniqueness of our individual souls. We should call out the beauty existing within our children and thrust it to the surface.
Wouldn’t you rather give your daughter something of real substance, than a dress or a pair of pants? Give her the value of loving herself. It starts by us, as mothers, loving ourselves in front of the little ladies that are watching us, heroizing us! Don’t they deserve a little more from you than what’s in your closet?