I heard a…thing…today that just ripped my heart to pieces. (It wasn’t a conversation.)
Emma has ballet on Thursdays. Emma loves ballet. I love that she loves it. I love that ballet teaches her to move her body and that she’s burning energy by dancing, by enjoying time with her friends and her teacher. I love that she’s so happy there. (And she looks adorable AF, too.)
Today I was sitting in the lobby at ballet and a mom was helping her daughter, maybe 10, get her hair up before class. She’d been pleasantly chatting with the studio director and another mom and then:
“Ugh. Chips? You brought CHIPS? This is NOT a healthy snack! Ugh. You’re not eating this.” And she took the girl’s chips, shoved them into her purse, and went back to fussing with her hair.
We want our kids to eat healthy snacks, sure. I get that. But if you could have heard her tone of voice, guys.
It was disparaging, humiliating, absolutely disgusted that her 10 year old didn’t make a different choice.
The 10 year old who, I learned with more listening, dances a MINIMUM of 4.5 hours a week and was about to spend 2 hours in the studio.
The girl just deflated. The other girls around her just tried to look away and ignore it, some of them not nearly as slender and athletically built as this girl.
It was the kind of commentary that leads to disordered eating and disordered thinking about the relationship between our bodies and food and exercise. And this mom was putting that on a 10 year old.
But then things just got more gross.
After being absolutely disgusted over her daughter’s snack choice, vowing never to buy chips again, the mom went back to smiling and chatting with other people near her. That alone was sort of terrible and disgusting since we had all just heard the way she talked to her daughter and now she was trying to be normal and chipper.
Everyone seemed to be pretending they hadn’t just overheard the exchange. Her daughter remained standing, waiting for class to begin. The other girls just kept trying to keep their distance.
The mom looked down at her daughter’s toe nails, polish chipped, and says
“Ugh! Your toenails are embarrassing.”
The girl deflated a little more.
I…uh…okay. The girl shoves her feet into dance shoes nearly every day of the week and it’s the first week of school but sure, let’s point out that her polish is chipped and call her embarrassing in front of every other parent and child in the room.
Why? Why pick apart something that is completely inconsequential? Does it matter? I don’t get it.
This has been bugging me all afternoon. Maybe those things don’t seem HUGE in the grand scheme of things, but if that mom was okay saying those things to her daughter in public, I cannot begin to imagine what sorts of things that child hears at home.
My brain runs rampant with scenarios of body-shaming a 10 year old, which is essentially what her “ugh, chips…” comment sounded like in my ears. (Again, I wish you could’ve heard her. As I type this out, it sounds like I’m being dumb, but her voice, guys. Her voice. She genuinely sounded like she hated everything.)
I try really, really hard never to judge other parents. I don’t know their circumstances, what kind of day they’ve had, their child’s normal behavior. None of that is in the snapshot of a person’s life to which I’m privy in that moment.
This mom might be the most loving, doting, emotionally supportive mom on the planet and maybe she was just having a terrible afternoon. I don’t know. But I can’t get her voice out of my head and she’s not even my mom so I can’t imagine that kind of commentary isn’t a constant in her daughter’s mind.
It’s just heartbreaking.
Moms, we MUST pay attention to the things we say to our children, especially our girls, and to our boys about girls. Do not be your daughter’s worst enemy. Do not set her up for a lifetime of hating herself and her body by saying things to her that you’d never in a million years want said to or about yourself.
It takes two seconds* to think about what we’re about to say before we say it, and those two seconds might mean the difference between building our daughters up and completely tearing them down.
I know I’m not perfect. I know I’m not always going to say the right thing to Emma. But I know that I’m going to make sure she knows that it’s okay to love herself and her body and her brain and her mind and ALL OF HERSELF if it kills me. And it might because she’s a feisty little 4 year old.
But it’s so worth it to try so that I don’t pass my own insecurities on to her. She deserves so much better than that. All of our children do.
*That’s not a scientific number. Just think before you speak. Please?