Why I’m looking at Property in the North Woods

May 2, 2013 at 6:53 pm (Kids) (, )

My daughter asked me if her legs were fat yesterday.

We were in the car, on the way home from soccer practice, which was directly after tennis, which took place after choir, which was right after school. (And I still persist in thinking that I’m winning the fight against over-scheduling. Let’s just say I have a rich and full fantasy life…but I digress).

My perfect girl

My perfect girl

“Mom,” I heard from the back seat.  “Are my legs fat?”

Don’t worry, I was cool.  I didn’t rear-end the car in front of me, or rupture a vein screaming to the heavens above, or drop a string of profanity so blue I scarred her for life…although all were very possible and even likely reactions.

“No,” I answered, with the “oah” vowel peculiar to my Upper Midwest peoples, and in the tone of Bart Simpson saying “Duh.”

“Why?” I asked, trying not to make a big deal out of it, and grateful that the other two kids weren’t in the car.

“Well, when I sit down, my legs just sort of…spread out.  And there’s all this jiggly stuff.”  She was utterly sincere.  I felt like crying…and raging.  Again, I did neither.  Who knew my acting background was going to prove so critical to my parenting?

“Riley, those are your strong muscles, that helped you walk to school today, and run at recess, and play soccer and tennis after school,” I said calmly. “They’re not fat.  You’re not fat.  You’re perfectly made, the way God meant you to be.”

She believed me I think, because she’s only ten, and I haven’t gotten completely stupid in the way that teenagers’ parents are completely stupid.

Did you get that?  She’s ten.  My ten-year-old asked me if she was fat.  My ten-year-old, who has never been higher than the 25th percentile on the weight chart at the doctor’s office.  My ten-year-old, who was a baby so slight of frame that my dear friend called her the “Pilates Baby.”

So my ten-year-old (TEN!) has entered into the ranks of the (by some accounts) 97% of American women who are dissatisfied with their bodies. (I’m not making that statistic up. Google it.)

And here’s my question…Where did that come from?  We watch almost no television.  I don’t subscribe to Vogue, or any of those magazines filled with pubescent girls modeling women’s clothing.  Her diet of movies is by and large animated.  She was never a big Barbie girl.  I would swear on a stack of Bibles that I haven’t ever, ever, EVER mentioned the word “fat” when talking about myself, at least not in her presence.  Where is it coming from?

I knew this was coming, because I have two daughters and I live in America…I just didn’t realize it was coming so soon.  And I have to admit, I don’t know how to combat it anymore than I already am, except for maybe by throwing in the towel and moving off the grid Up North somewhere. And actually, that would solve the over-scheduling too.


1 Comment

  1. Beth said,

    I know the answer to your question. I vividly remember the first time I thought I had to lose weight as a child — I was in the 4th grade — so 10 I guess? I looked down at my body and thought I looked fat in my cords. (To be honest though, does any female look good in cords?) It didn’t come from my family, tv, magazines, mean kids — it came from me. By that age, girls have internalized the fact that, as the fairer sex, that they have to be, well fair. So we start analyzing everything about ourselves — hair, eyes, thighs ….. Unfortunately, I think we come preprogrammed in that regard. And, like your daughter, I was on the thin/healthy side and didn’t get weight issues until I was well into adulthood. But I had eating (in the sense of not-eating) issues by the 9th grade — and even managed to hide it from my parents for a long time. There is no cure — but I do think sports is the best way to promote a healthy body image. You’re doing everything right. But don’t be surprised if your 10 year-old suddenly tells you that she’s never wearing cords again.

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