Unwanted Milestone: Six-Year-Old Body Shaming

When you have a new baby, life is all about milestones. Baby holding her head up. Rolling over. Sleeping through the night. Starting solid foods. First steps. Parents drive themselves nuts comparing their children to other children and either boasting or fretting about when their child reaches each milestone. This obsession with milestones is probably the first thing about parenting that makes us parents truly crazy.

Then comes potty training, and we get REALLY crazy. Holy poop. (Pun intended.)

But some milestones are not as exciting. First ER visit. First peer rejection. First bad grade.

And the one I witnessed tonight: the first time I heard my daughter say, “I’m so fat.”

In case you were wondering, my daughter is 6. She is in first grade.

We were at my parents’ house swimming, and the heat and exhaustion had already forced her dad and little brothers into the house. She and I decided to stay and swim just a few more minutes, just the girls. She had just climbed out of the water and was talking to me while I sat in the sun. Honestly, I don’t remember how it came up. I was so shocked to hear her say it that everything else is a blur. My heart sunk into my gut as I struggled to avoid a knee-jerk reaction.

Every insecure moment of my life flashed through my mind; all the pain of my lifelong struggles with weight and identity crashed over me like an unexpected wave. My mama-bear instinct wanted to shake her by the shoulders and somehow force her to understand that she is the most beautiful creature I have ever laid eyes on!! …But I can’t do that. I swallowed hard and focused on controlling my facial expression to invite her into conversation rather than push her away by suggesting she did something wrong. All I could say was, “Honey, that’s not true.”

She was nonchalant. “Oh yeah?” she replied, slapping her thigh. “Just look at how fat my legs are!” I looked. My heart sunk even more. Her toned, muscular leg barely shook when she hit it. I thought, Those are gymnast thighs. You could be an Olympian with legs like that. Oh, Princess, you are so perfect!! Instead, I said, “Your legs are wonderful. Did you see how high you were able to jump off the diving board with those legs? Remember how fast your legs can run when you play soccer? Your legs allow you to dance and kick, and when you bend your legs, you can help a friend who has fallen down. Your legs are amazing!”

She smiled. “What about my arms?” she asked. We went through all the amazing things her arms can do, then her hands, her head, and her tummy. We talked about creation, and how God made her in his own image, and he is so proud of what a good creation she is! I reminded her that we honor God by respecting his creation, so she should not say rude things about her body, because he loves her body.

And he loves yours too. When was the last time you took a personal inventory of all the cool things your body can do? Whatever your shape, size, age, gender, disability, or whatever else you are tempted to criticize about yourself, you are capable of some pretty incredible things!

Even the things you don’t like can be amazing. My kids have this funny game of playing with the excess skin/flab on my stomach. I have lots of it after having 3 children in 3 1/2 years, and I don’t anticipate it going away anytime soon, if ever. I’ll lay on my back, and the kids will push and pull and grab my skin, pretending to knead bread dough, or they’ll slap it to make waves. The boys recently discovered that blowing raspberries on my stomach is louder than on theirs because it’s so much looser. They find all this hysterical, and I must admit, it’s hard not to laugh! Sometimes the oldest will snuggle her face into the soft skin dimpled with stretch marks and coo, “My home! This was my very first home!” That’s right! My smooshy, flabby, wobbly belly grew, housed, and protected 3 beautiful, perfect, full-term babies. A pretty spectacular feat for a lump of flabby skin, don’t you think??

I don’t know where my daughter picked up on calling herself fat. Being a youth pastor’s kid, she is often in the company of teenage girls from whom she could have heard this phrase. She could have heard it at school. But she most definitely did NOT hear it at home. I struggled with my weight and self-confidence for 20+ years. I have been “obese,” and I have called myself fat. But a few years ago I realized a truth that changed my life forever: no matter what I look like, how much I weigh, or what my pants size is, my body is INCREDIBLE. Your body is incredible! My daughter’s body is incredible. I am on a mission to make sure she never thinks of it in any other way.

I challenge you to stop saying negative things about your body, both aloud and to yourself. Rather than looking at the things you dislike, think about what you can do. Even the simplest things are miracles to those who cannot do them due to injury or illness. You are amazing!! And your Creator is proud of his work.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

Psalm 139:14

Here's my daughter using those amazing legs to fearlessly leap into the deep end when she was 2 1/2 years old.

Here’s my daughter using those amazing legs to fearlessly leap into the deep end when she was just 2 1/2 years old.

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6 thoughts on “Unwanted Milestone: Six-Year-Old Body Shaming

  1. I’m a bigger size than I was before having my 3rd baby and I have felt insecure and unhappy with my body. You had a very similar conversation with me that forever changed my perspective. Your struggle has been long and difficult but it has given you a real understanding of how God sees and loves us and created us. You may not be able to prevent L from hearing these lies but you have truth, love and victory and you handled this incredibly! I’m so grateful for you.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Gender Reveal! | Unthank You Very Much

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