This morning, one of my worst parenting nightmares began to take shape in real life.
My daughter told me someone said she had a fat face. My 30 lb bone rack of a 3.5 year old beauty has been the brunt of fat jokes, and it's hard not to internalize it, blame myself, and curse the world that being fat is like the lowest common denominator - the worst kind of insult that could be thrown at anyone.
I have done everything in my power to eliminate the word fat from our household. Not out of denial, but out of a clear understanding that it doesn't actually represent the people it applies to. And clearly out of the hope that by taking away some of it's presence, takes away some of it's power, and hopefully allows me to raise my child in a way that develops an appreciation for all people, regardless of what they look like period. Full stop.
By all accounts, though I am morbidly obese, I'm pretty frigging healthy. I'm not diabetic. I've never had a heart attack. I don't have some of those other disorders commonly associated with obesity like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I do have aches, pains and generally feel better when I'm lighter, but I'm one of those people who will never be 150 lbs. It's not in my genetic code to be that way.
I've taken every possible step to lose the weight, out of fear that my daughter would draw bullying based on the simple fact that her mother is fat. I know how kids are. I had surgery last year and have lost 40 lbs. The big win for me has been that I've sustained the loss. That's huge for a woman who seemed to be an ever increasing size without even blinking an eye. I cook 90 percent of our meals from scratch and limit our intakes of preservatives and chemicals...I'm wholly focused on making sure that the food that is brought into this house is generally healthy but also not otherwise punitive. And the reason I haven't lost more than 40 lbs in a year despite my surgery is that I'm keenly aware that I want to exemplify healthy, balanced and non-punitive eating behaviours for my otherwise very petite daughter. I'm aware with every bite that I take, she's getting either a message that will lead to her own potential eating disorders. So I'm trying very hard to lose the weight while being as "normal" as I possibly can be.
And still the thing I hear this weekend is that she has a fat face, isn't pretty, or she's drawing fat mermaids. And I can't stop it. I can only tell her that telling someone they are fat, isn't nice. That the other people saying she is fat are simply jealous, and they aren't worth her time or effort. But the voices have begun, and I have no idea how to protect my child from it and all the ripple effects of every single possible choice I can make.
I'm open to ideas though. While I'm praying that how I've handled it already has been the right way to do it.
PS. It was an oversight not to call out that part of my strategy in addressing this at home is about self love and body appreciation of all kinds. My response has been to guide her that all people are beautiful and have infinite value, no matter their shape, colour or appearance. But speaking louder than her peers and the little voices that are developing in her own mind is already proving to be a challenge. Fingers crossed I'm louder for a really long time...