I was at my home away from home – otherwise known as Starbucks – getting work done when I observed a mother with two daughters come in. They were young, around eleven years old firmly entrenched in the preteen years, with lithe dancers bodies and bubbly personalties to match.
They got in line and began discussing what they were going to drink. Apparently they had just come from working out and were dressed as such. Starbucks had just started their Frappuccino promotion, and had brought back the s’more and birthday fraps because of it. One of the girls saw it and decided that was what she was going to have and said as much.
The mother gave her a startled look and asked “I thought you were getting tea. Tea is a healthier choice.”
The girl replied, “But that was before I saw they had the S’more frappuccino back.”
“That doesn’t sound very healthy. You should get tea.”
As I sat at my table, drinking my own caramel macchiato, which probably had way to much sugar for the errant mother, I could already begin to see where the conversation was going. I had witnessed it a hundred times before not just at Starbucks, but Panera, the nail salon, even out on the street. Knowing didn’t lessen the trepidation I felt for the daughter or the breaking of my own heart.
“Mom I just worked out.”
The other daughter then interjected, “I am getting the iced passion fruit tea I think.”
“That is a great idea,” The mother replied back. “It is much healthier. You should get tea like your sister?” She told her other daughter.
“Mom I really want the frap.” The daughter replied as a last ditch effort.
“No. You will get fat. You do not want to be fat.” The mother stated very matter of fact, ending the discussion.
As I sat there listening, it took all my will power not to say something. I am not one for confrontation, but I was angry and sad. My heart ached for that girl whose mother had just told her some cruel truths. They weren’t from bullies at school, but the woman who first and foremost was suppose to love her. Who was suppose to protect her and boost her spirit and tell her, she can do anything she puts her heart too.
I wanted to pull that girl close, give her a huge hug, and tell her she was beautiful as she was and that she needn’t worry about weight or body image. I wanted to shelter her from the cold reality that people, even those who are suppose to love us most, can be brutally cruel.
I get it. I understand we want to push our children towards healthy choices. To encourage a healthy life style. But how far are we going to go? We live in a society where it is bad enough to body shame ourselves. Why are we now going to start body shaming our own children?
I am an honest person, some would say to a fault. I give the tough love, because I would want it reciprocated. Giving tough love to an adult is completely different then giving it to a kid. Yet, I hear parents, especially mothers telling their daughters; No you can’t have that. Or this. That will make you fat. You look like a cow in that. You ate to much. On and on and on it goes.
I battled Bulimia. I battled with distorted eating. I battled an addiction to exercise all from a very young age. It was my own internal war with my body because, I couldn’t mold it to societies standards, especially those of a figure skater. We live in a world where being skinny is revered. Because of that I almost died.
When I began my slow trek back to a more healthfully balanced life, I struggled with what foods I ate. Especially in a world where people are pushing diets, cleanses, and whatever else is trendy at the moment, I had to, not only deal with my own internal guilt of what I put in my mouth, but those of others.
We live in a world that is so full of judgement and ugliness, we shouldn’t. No We can not push that onto our children. Nurture and guide them yes. But shame them? Inflict our own insecurities on them? Hell no.
Children need to be allowed to be just that. Children. To play in the park and go after the ice cream truck on hot summer days. To go to theme parks and enjoy a slurpee. To live. To enjoy life. The sweetness of childhood, is that it is filled with such innocence. Kids truly do see life through rose colored glasses witnessing the good in the world and ignoring the evil. We can NOT take that away from them. They grow up fast enough as it is, we need to let them enjoy some semblance of life. Not put the fear of god in them about their self worth in regards to their own image.
Yes, we need to guide them towards good decision making. But we need to do so in a way that will not promote eating disorders and distorted body images at such a young age. We owe it to them to make this life better then what we had. We owe it to them, to let them know that they are loved, and that love is NOT based on image or weight, but on who they are as a person.