My 7-year-old daughter wants to fit in with her classmates and friends. God bless her, she doesn’t like to be made fun of. And who would? She likes Taylor Swift, karaoke, long hair, no bangs (that she has to grow out–argh!) and there’s nothing to buy anymore but skinny jeans in her size. She is a petite little thing. In fact, her nickname “Little Bit” is very accurate.
Her hair has this funny little part and when she doesn’t brush it correctly or use enough spray to calm it down, then she gets frustrated and says silly things like, “Mom. My hair looks like a hippie.” Or, “Mom. You’re hair is so big and sticking out. YOU look like a hippie. I hate hippies.” While I’m not entirely sure she understands what a hippie is, she knows what she likes and what doesn’t look or feel right.
The first cold front we had a few weeks ago had us dragging out the winter coats and hats. But Little Bit decided a sweatshirt was good enough. Luckily her mother loves her too much to allow pneumonia to end her beautiful little life and made her go get a coat before going to school. She protested and argued (which was dealt with, appropriately of course, as she basically did a sit-down lunch counter protest until I was late for work) and finally got her coat on and went out to the car. I heard grumblings of ‘hippies’ and the hood on the coat messing up her hair. She finally told me the real reason, though. She thought it would make her look fat.
I was stunned. She’s seven. She’s tiny. She’s athletic. She’s cold.
I told her all these things and ended my conclusion with the fact that it shouldn’t matter what she looks like. I loved her, she should love herself, and she shouldn’t let other people make her feel like she has to change for them. Of course, I used terminology that a kid could understand, but she understood. On that day. I have to always encourage her with this, but I still stand aghast. How can a seven year old be concerned about her weight???
After telling her father about this, he looked over at her and teased her about her tummy. “NO!” I screamed at him so as to interrupt any further damage. You do not make fun of a girl’s weight, especially if you know it is bothering her and you cherish her confidence in herself. I had to fix that five second teasing with a half an hour discussion about sarcasm and teasing, but I think she got it.
My sister and I have figured out that the school may have some blame in this. Her son in the same class had made some comments about not eating another cookie so he won’t get fat. He’s just slightly bigger than my Little Bit.
A few factors are to really blame:
1) Peer pressure starts early.
2) My nephew was a FAT BABY and his daddy was concerned at first he may be overweight when he got older. And by fat, I mean he couldn’t open his eyes when he was born because they were squeezed shut by his largeness. He was adorable.
3) The schools are constantly talking about how kids in the U.S. are over weight or obese.Childhood obesity is serious, but the message is seeping into my daughter and nephew’s heads that they are doomed to be fat if they aren’t careful. And if they are fat, then they are not acceptable in our society.
I am not upset with the school, but I am more cautious about what I say in front of my kids when it comes to body image. I am a notorious people-watcher, so this puts a little damper on my comedic style. I also show them that it’s okay to make fun of themselves as well. It’s okay to be imperfect, and it’s okay to point out our flaws if it’s in fun.
I’ll bet you money Little Bit turns into a hippie someday. In fact, that’s our next year’s Halloween costumes. Then after that, zombies.