By Shannon Magsam, Ladybug’s mama
She pulls out the scale with a loud scrape and steps up. Her feet are tiny standing there as the numbers make a swishing sound, then bounce to a stop. She says the number out loud, then adds, “That’s almost 100.” It’s not even close, but I have no idea why she says this, why she thinks 100 is bad. I don’t know why the number has any context.
Another day she says, “I wish I was skinny.”
I feel my body deflate and my heart constrict.
Her best friends are so tiny. When they have sleepovers she sees their ribs protruding from their skin. It’s the way they’re made and she’s made the way she is. Not too little, not too big, just right.
I try to explain this.
I have been so careful to keep words like fat, skinny, heavy, weight and diet, out of my vocabulary for nearly eight years. Instead, John and I say things like strong, powerful, kind and beautiful. Words that describe her.
I remember being in a little talent contest when I was in the fifth grade and they actually weighed us all before the show. So the emcee could announce that number right along with our favorite subjects in school and our parents’ names. I remember feeling stricken when I saw the number on the scale. I thought it meant something awful. Looking back at pictures now I see a normal kid. Just a normal-sized kid.
I try to tell her this. We talk through how it’s best to be healthy, not some magical weight. To be grateful for our strong bodies. To cultivate our inner beauty.
I fumble and falter as I often do lately. Her questions seem so grown-up sometimes and I have to pick my way along, like I’m climbing a particularly steep rock face. One false move and she might fall into a trap of eating disorders or self-loathing or perpetual dieting.
She’ll never hear that she’s not beautiful from me or her dad. I’m hoping our voices will be louder than any negative self-tapes. Louder than any television commercial shouting about the best way to lose weight. Louder than a world obsessed with “skinny”.
In telling her, I tell myself.
This is such a tough subject to deal with. I have two daughters in their teens; One is long-waisted and naturally thin, and the other is short-waisted, long-legged, and has more “tummy” due to the short distance between her hips and ribs. She also weighs 30 lbs. more than her sister… probably due to having more muscle on her frame. It’s just nature, but she worries about it. I, too, try to emphasize health over weight, but I truly think that a parent’s opinion on the subject is drowned out because the girls know we’re going to love and support them no matter what.
On another subject – they weighed you before the talent show??? That’s WACK!!!! 🙂
What you are telling her is just what she needs to hear. My own Ladybug finally announced last week that she’s happy with her body and how strong it is. She’s 16 now, but we went through the same struggles with her body image for almost 8 years that you’re going through right now. Your pretty little girl WILL listen eventually and will thank you for it, but till then keep on telling her how pretty, thoughtful and strong she is. You’re doing great! 🙂
Totally wack ;)They wouldn’t dream of doing it now.
Thanks for the encouragement. I think it’s awesome that your 16-year-old feels that way. Is she a runner, too? Mine’s not really into sports (loves horseback riding, though) so I wonder if I should get her involved in something like that.
I appreciate both of your comments — especially since you both have older girls! Are boys easier?