Dear Lanie's* mom,
It took every ounce of strength in me last night to keep my mouth shut after the comment you made to your daughter. When you said, in front of her friends and STRANGERS that she "has gotten fat since she stopped dancing" and that you are going to "make her do sit-ups" I literally cringed. I immediately turned to her and said "you are BEAUTIFUL" in hopes of planting a seed of doubt in her mind that what you were saying was true. Truth is, your daughter IS beautiful. She is 15 and growing and does not need YOU criticizing her body.
Do you not remember what it is like to be 15? Or were things really that different when you were a kid? High School is a BATTLEFIELD! Girls are vicious and I am sure you are not the first person she has heard about her "pooch" from. I am sure she is already self conscious about it. But you calling her out in front of people she doesn't know makes her even more aware of it. You made your daughter hate a part of her body. She will now look in the mirror and instead of feeling beautiful, she will feel angry and unworthy. YOU did that with your words.
As a mother, your daughter looks UP to you. Whether you realize it or not, EVERYTHING you say to her goes straight to her heart. She is constantly seeking your approval. By publicly SHAMING her for her body, you are teaching her that she is worthy of shame, that she is ugly and she should not be respected. And instead of criticizing her body, and saying that she "stopped exercising, but still eats a lot", maybe you could teach her about portion control, or nutrition. YOU ARE HER MOTHER. YOU CONTROL WHAT SHE EATS. Instead of taking her out to fast food every night, you could teach her about nutrition! You think that your comments are helping her when really they are slowly tearing apart her self esteem. Instead you could actually help her by teaching her the importance of a balanced diet and exercise outside of dance.
I am sure being a mother is hard. You want the best for your daughter but you don't know how to constructively bring up that you think she is gaining weight. I understand that it is a hard conversation to have. I do know, however, that you don't have to do it in public. I can't understand how the conversation right after her choir concert has nothing to do with how beautiful she sounded, or how proud of her you are for putting herself out there, but is about how fat she is getting. And when she said "I don't think anyone noticed my pooch" you should have said "OF COURSE NOT, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL" instead of "They did. You should have sucked it in." NO ONE NOTICED IT! YOU are the only person that has a problem with it!
Obviously you struck a nerve with me, Lanie's mom. Growing up with a mom much like yourself, I know first hand what it feels like to be told that you are fat. I was told my entire teenage-hood that I was fat, and because of that, not worthy. Not worthy of friends, or love or happiness. I grew up HATING my body. And because I hated my body, I didn't respect it. I didn't believe I was worthy of love, but I still craved attention from guys. So I used the body I didn't respect to get the attention I wanted. When I met my now husband, I was told that I could meet someone better if I just could lose a little weight. That I would be happier if I would just lose some weight. I have news for you, Lanie's mom. The things you say to your daughter DO matter. She will remember those comments for the rest of her life and she will look at herself differently because of it. So I hope you are happy.
Dear EVERY MOTHER OF A DAUGHTER,
OMG PLEASE HUG YOUR DAUGHTER. Lets start there. Hug her. Hard. And tell her she is beautiful. Teach her about her body and teach her to LOVE it, all of it, even the imperfect parts. Because they are perfect because they are hers. Teach her to respect her body, and that it is stronger than she ever imagined. Teach her about nutrition! Teach her how to eat healthfully and teach her to use moderation for the fun stuff. And please, PLEASE, always remember that the things you say to your daughter are IMPORTANT. EVERYTHING you say will stick with her. Please NEVER shame her for her body. Don't. If you think she is gaining weight and you want to make a change, look at what you are feeding her, and encourage her to be active. Not by saying "I am going to make you do sit-ups" but by showing her how fun being active can be, either by dancing, or playing sports, or by just chasing her around the house in a game of tag! You are her mother. Don't take that role lightly.
*name changed obviously