Yesterday my daughter came home and asked to talk to my wife and I about friends issues. She is in third grade and apparently there is already friend issues. We have had conversations before about how to handle the stresses of juggling friend requests, or having friends not want to play your game that day. We have talked about advocating for yourself, being nice, and hopefully all the things parents should be telling their child to prepare them for navigating the treacherous world of elementary playgrounds.
Last night was different. She told us that a friend's older sister said she was fat. I am struggling to continue to write this post because I am fighting back tears. My daughter is the kindest gentlest person I know and in an instant this one word FAT is defining her. It is causing her angst, frustration and pain.
As I woke this morning I thought back to my childhood and my experiences. I was called fat and much worse. I was picked on for how I looked not what I knew or could do. It began to define how I saw myself and my self worth. It continues to shape the decisions I make and my interactions with others. I struggle with how others see me, do they see and judge what I look like, or what I have to say or contribute to the conversation.
My wife talked to my daughter about standing up for herself. To tell the girl that it isn't nice, it hurts peoples feelings... she gave her good advice about self advocating. What I saw in my daughter was difficult to find a word to describe but she began to cry. She was afraid of upsetting the other girl, she was afraid to put herself in this difficult position. I saw myself in her. I struggled to stand up and truly confront the bullies in my life. As I watched her, listened to her I realized she is beginning the same struggles I went through. The issue isn't really about whether or not she is fat. The issue is other people have labeled her and that is already impacting her. Our children are not labels, they do not fit into neat categories like the A student or the trouble maker. They are more than...
Remember You Are More and so are each and every child!
I am angry and frustrated that at age 9 my daughter has to see the ugliness of human behavior and that I can't shelter or protect her from it. I can't hug her and take the pain away like when she scraped her knee while learning to ride her bike.
Our children deserve better. We deserve better. I cannot change the behavior of others that my daughters will interact with throughout their lives, but I can help shape who they are and who they become. I can shower them with praise! I can help them see how awesome they are! I can teach them to stand up for themselves, to advocate, to fight to be a strong person! I can be there to support them, guide them and take the journey of life alongside them. I can help her see that her worth and value is not and should not be tied to appearance but what she contributes to this world.
Always remember they are not labels, because labels leave a lasting impression. They are children who deserve our best! I can do better for every child I interact with and I hope you do the same.