Mama bear instincts come as naturally as breathing to some parents. I’m definitely one of those parents. I will go to any lengths imaginable to protect my children. I keep them fairly close to me, meet parents hosting parties, and am generally as involved as I can be while still allowing my 10-year-old son and 14-year-old twin girls a bit of freedom so they can earn my trust. I’ve learned over the years that mama bear tendencies are often more about damage control than protection.
My girls were born premature and weighed in at just 2 lbs 14 ounces and 4 lbs 6 ounces. They are, and always have been, small. Now, at 14, they are among the smallest kids in their high school. They both stand at less than 5 feet tall and are thin.
It’s been clear for many years that they will always be small. Look at where they started. We decided long ago that there are worse things than being small and after following up with the appropriate medical staff to ensure no medical problems were causing the size, we decided as a family to let it go. We are incredibly grateful that our girls are healthy and happy. Many who come into the world the way these girls did aren’t as lucky as they are.
The problem is that other people think they can and should comment on my girls’ size. A lot. They used to be tormented at school but nowadays it’s mostly adults. Yup, grown ass adults who should know better. Relatives, teachers, even doctors telling me to “fatten them up” as if that had never occurred to me, all have an opinion on the subject. They also think it’s their moral obligation to share that opinion with my daughters. They don’t seem to hear when I politely tell them that we have had all the appropriate testing done and they are small but healthy and eat well and remain active. They don’t seem to notice when my girls become so upset they can’t hide their tears.
Why is it that no matter what we women do, our bodies are always an acceptable topic of conversation? Even when we are just children.
At 34 years old, I have only recently begun to accept my own body, in part due to the nature of our culture constantly commenting on women’s bodies. I spent many years being embarrassed by my small frame, frequently calling myself a woman trapped in a 9-year-old’s body. My lack of curves (which apparently “real” women have) combined with being told to eat more cheeseburgers than anyone should ever consume had a lasting effect on me. And if I’m being honest, I finally gained that 15 pounds I have been working on by lifting weights almost daily and eating an absolutely unimaginable amount of calories every day.
So, any therapist worth their degree would probably say that I didn’t come to terms with my size; I just found a way to conform to what everyone tells me I should look like or weigh. But that’s a whole other issue for another day.
Dealing with these comments and subsequent feelings myself is one thing. People making these comments about my children is an entirely different matter. Commenting on any child’s size is NEVER okay. Ever.
If you have a legitimate concern, come to me. I’m their mother and I buy the food. I would be more than happy to explain my kids’ diet, genetics, and activity to anyone who asks. If you ever find yourself wanting to make a joke about my kids’ size, don’t. Seriously. Don’t ever do it. It’s never funny.
I’ll answer a few of those rhetorical questions now for all the skinny girls (and boys) out there. No, they don’t have to run around the shower to get wet. No, they do not hide behind a piece of string. And yes, they have eaten this week and are not in need of any cupcake donations. I’ll take the cupcake though because who’s turning down free cake? Furthermore, my daughters, just like all the other woman in the world, get to hate shopping for jeans and especially swimsuits.
So the next time you find yourself wanting to make a joke or a snide remark hidden behind a smile at the expense of a young girl, just don’t do it. Try and remember how self-conscious we all were at that age and don’t go out of your way to make that feeling last any longer than necessary. Those jokes and comments will stay with those young girls for an unbelievable amount of time, maybe forever.
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