A dear friend shared this Elle article with me today, The F Word, written by one of my favorite authors: Jennifer Weiner.
I read it once, then read it again. While I’ve loved all her novels, her words in this short two page piece literally moved me to tears.
I was never called “fat” to my face (as a kid or otherwise) and was never teased about my weight (though I THOUGHT I was “fat”) so I didn’t personally endure what Jennifer has endured at different parts of her life.
But as someone who has struggled/still struggles with body image at times, I get what it’s like to not feel adequate or worthy; I get what it’s like to compare yourself to other girls/women. And I get what it’s like to think “if I get thin all my problems will go away.” [Newsflash: NOT TRUE!]
And now I’m the mom of a little girl … and so this piece really hit home. I have no clue how I’d handle the situation Jennifer was in when her daughter used the “F” word to describe another girl. I can understand how Jennifer would be prepared to tell her daughter she is beautiful and perfect as she is; expecting her to have weight issues like she has had. And I can understand why she’d be completely caught off guard when her child wasn’t the one being called names, but rather doing the name-calling.
And like Jennifer, though I say I want Maya to be smart and strong and wise and funny and pretty and loved and liked and respected and confident … there’s also a part of me that desperately prays weight won’t be an issue she will ever deal with. That, as Jennifer says, weight won’t be her cross to bear.
All I can do as a parent is lead by example: eating (relatively) healthily and exercising and making fitness fun for us as a family. The truth is, she will be who she will be — I’m just a guide. I aim to be a positive role model as a mom, but that doesn’t mean I’m without flaws and faults.
This piece reminded me of how important it will be to curb my words/actions in front of Maya. Kids hear things and repeat those things. And they can be mean — so very mean.
It’s my hope that if we ever saw/heard her talking about someone the way Jennifer’s daughter did, we would approach it the same way. I just hope not to have to cross that bridge for a looooong time … if ever.
I’d want her to know that her confidence shouldn’t come at the expense of cutting someone else down. Because words hurt. Words sting. And words like the F word … just aren’t forgotten.
How about you? How do you talk to your children about this kind of stuff? Would you approach it like Jennifer did?