Every now and then I get an email that strikes close to my heart; either because it’s something I’ve dealt with or it’s an issue that I speak out about. This is an email of the latter.
Dear Guilty Parent,
I have a daughter who is started to hit that stage where her body is changing. She’s getting taller, filling out up top, and she’s very excited about it all. Probably more excited than I am. With all the changes though, she is also starting to get a little bit of a tummy on her. It doesn’t bother me and I don’t think it bothers her – if it is, she isn’t saying anything to me about it and I notice it but I know it’s all part of puberty so I don’t say anything either.
However, after a recent sleepover with her grandmother, my hackles got raised. As my mother in law was saying goodbye to her, she reached out and poked my daughter’s belly saying, “watch that pooch there.” My daughter looked a little caught off guard briefly and then just nodded. I on other hand stood there with my mouth hanging open and could only get out “goodbye.” I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT TO SAY?? I immediately asked my daughter what grandma meant by that and she said she didn’t know. I left it at that but it BOTHERS ME. She’s only 12!!!
I’m not sure what to do right now. Do I say anything to my mother in law or do I just let it go?
Good God in heaven I’d have red flags and the fourth of July going off in my head if that happened. I have a dear friend who struggled with weight and I’m a firm believer that it all came from pressure that she got from her family. I’ve heard stories and watched the insanity of the snide comments she’d get and so I can say that you are so right to have your hackles raised. Since it was your mother in law though (and I don’t know how well you get a long with her) I’d probably not say anything to her.
I would however talk to your daughter. Even if she doesn’t seem to know or act like she knew what the comment was about, I’m going to guess that she might have been embarrassed (were other people around at the time?) and maybe said she didn’t know to deflect the issue.
This is such a sensitive topic. Seriously, because you don’t want to make weight and body image an issue in her life at 12. But you do want to let her know that you’re in her corner and if she is uncomfortable in her body, you are there to talk to her about it. My own Bebe is 11 and has made mention that a couple of girls have called her fat and we’ve had discussions about what is healthy and also that in the next few years her body is going to do all kinds of crazy things; to worry about what she weighs or tries to diet is not the best decision. She confided that she doesn’t feel fat but it makes her uncomfortable to hear someone say that to her.
Here’s the bottom line, girls are sensitive about their body and their weight. In the tween and teen years it’s a delicate balancing act discussing it without seeming like you want her to lose weight. You and I both know that her body is fine, but comments like “watch that pooch”, or ” watch your belly”, have the potential to be damaging to her. Even if your mother in law meant no harm by it, I would take the opportunity to revisit it and tell your daughter that you’re aware of what her grandma said and ask her what she thinks of it. Let her lead the conversation.
OK readers, your turn. How would you handle this situation?