• Mon, Dec 30 - 11:00 am ET

Resolution Week: My New Year’s Resolution Is To Stop Giving My Kid Weird Body Issues

ngs0_2134On my very first day in Texas, I took my daughter, two-years-old at the time, to the grocery store to pick up all of the necessities for our apartment—toilet paper, cheerios, and chardonnay—and as I lingered over a display of Frito Pie ingredients, wondering what the hell Frito Pie was, a woman with a massive hairdo and leopard print caftan approached, exclaiming, “How adorable! She looks just like you–you should put her in a toddler pageant!”

I laughed appreciatively at her hilarious joke, until I noticed the wounded look on her face and realized she was being serious. I would find out later that “You should do pageants” is the ultimate compliment in Texas regarding toddler cuteness, and that my response was basically on par with punching a kindly grandmother in the face. She handled it with southern grace, though, patting me on the shoulder and even saying, “bless your soul!” which I would find out later is the Texas equivalent of,  “well fuck you too, honey.”

What really stuck with me that day, though, was the woman’s assertion that my kid looked just like me, because frankly, until then I’d never seen a resemblance. I had always joked that my husband must have cheated because there was no way she was mine.

I went home and relayed the incident to my husband, and after having an arrogant laugh about the aw-shucksy quaintness of the natives, I asked if our daughter really did look just like me.

“Of course,” he said. “Everyone says so.”

I stared at my toddler while she slept for a while, and piece by piece, I could see it, too. The hair. The eyes. The tip of her nose. As she got older, these things became even more recognizable, but I saw them as features that were inherited but improved on her, because while my daughter is beautiful, the most I could ever hope for is “interesting.” 

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  • Kay_Sue

    This was brilliantly written. *standing ovation*

    • http://www.gamedevwidow.weebly.com/ Theresa Edwards
    • Kay_Sue

      Naw, thank you. It’s something we all have to come to terms with as parents, and it was a great way to reflect on it. I had the revelation a little differently–my son’s biological father looked at me when my boy was three days old and said, “I can’t be a dad”, and I said, “Okay.” It wasn’t a shocker–we’d separated when I was three months pregnant because his escalating behavior made him a danger (in my opinion) to himself and others–but in that moment, I realized one day I would have to tell my son about this man, and that this man was a part of him. It slowly dawned on me that I, too, was a part of my son, and that how I saw myself would reflect in how he saw himself, too.

      So this really hit home. Thanks again for sharing, and I wish you the best of luck–it can be a difficult web to unweave, but it is completely worth it.

  • Megan Zander


  • EX

    Thank you for this.

  • Zettai

    Sad but inspiring.

  • pixie

    This is a great resolution. Your daughter is lucky to have such a great mom who, like many women, has self-image issues, but has realized she unintentionally passed mixed messages to her daughter and is actually doing something to correct those messages. It’s going to be difficult to change your habits, but I’m positive you’ll succeed since you love your daughter dearly. Wishing all the best to you in your resolution and the new year.

  • Mel

    My mother is doing it to my nieces with her (she thinks) hilarious puns. It breaks my heart to see the sadness on their faces when Nana tears them down. She’s done it to Sis and me our whole lives. Sis almost died from eating disorders and I have panic attacks in the parking lot at the grocery store. I try to tell Sis every time I see it happen so that she can soften the blow with Nieces when the get home, and I try to pull them aside and explain that Nana thinks she’s being funny and not hurtful. I’m so happy that this mom is aware of what she has accidentally done in the past, and being willing and eager to change the pattern shows she’s a great mom!

    • http://www.gamedevwidow.weebly.com/ FaintlyXMacabre

      Thanks for sharing this. Part of my jokey coping mech comes from my mom’s toxic “humor”. Whats funny to a group of adults is definitely confusing to younger kids.

    • brebay

      I wish you’d step in and do it when you hear it. All that time they have to process it is like exposure to radiation, especially with their family history. Yes, it may cause a rift with your mom, but you are talking about life and death here, if their own mother won’t limit their exposure to this toxin, I hope you find the strength to do it.

    • Mel

      I’m not going to disrupt family events to show my ass and make a scene. As much as I want to stop it as it happens, bringing even more attention to the situation by turning it into a circus isn’t going to help Nieces or anybody else. It’s not fear that keeps me from jumping in, it’s civility and the assumption that maybe the girls don’t want a spectacle made. I think a private conversation is more appropriate, but thanks for your concern and your input. I’m just gonna handle it this way for now.

    • Mila

      My dad used to make fun of me at family events in front of everyone. I always thought it was normal until my Uncle stepped in and made fun of him right back. I felt so validated that everyone heard it and that (hopefully) my dad had a little taste of what it was like to be on the receiving end. Never had a problem after that.

    • Mel

      I’m so happy your uncle stood up for you! And, the family has gotten so sick of Mother’s bullshit, we’ve all stopped politely laughing and have even turned the insults around on her. I’m just not going to stop and directly address Niece about her feelings in the middle of it and draw even more attention to her. She’s a tween, so mortification is just a breath away and any given moment.

    • aCongaLine

      if she’s a tween, she’s on the brink of some big changes. Please reconsider stepping in and speaking on her behalf. You have the power to pay it back to your uncle, and validate your niece. And if you can’t, hopefully someone else will! Girls have enough to worry about, between peers and magazines and commercials for diet pills and puberty. Their family should be a safe place.

    • Mel

      I’m not sure what you want me to do? I already alert her mother, I speak to Niece privately, and we all turn it back against Mother when she does this. Do you truly think Niece would feel better if I stopped a family gathering to lecture her Nana and embarrassed both of us and made everyone uncomfortable? I’m sorry, I just don’t think that’s going to solve anything or set a good example.

    • CrazyCatMadame

      Obviously the Nana doesn’t have any qualms embarrassing her grandchildren in front of others. I also imagine that other are already uncomfortable when she makes the snide comments. Do you really think they’ll be any more uncomfortable with someone quickly standing up saying that it was an inappropriate comment? It doesn’t need to be a lecture. While the Niece might be “mortified” in the moment, she’ll also know that you have her back no matter what the situation….and that buys a lot of trust.

      There is also something missing (to me) here….why does the Mother even tolerate Nana’s behavior? I understand trying to keep the family peace and all….but if this was happening to my daughter, I would remove ourselves from any family function that included Nana until Nana turns herself around. Yes that is a drastic measure, but it will make a point.

      My father did the same for me when I was about 4 years old. His parents treated me differently than my brother because I am adopted (my brother is a biological child.) He demanded that they treat me the same as the rest or he would prohibit them from seeing both of us. They got the point and changed their ways. I’m forever grateful to him for that act of love.

  • Fabel

    I usually get very rage-y reading about this sort of thing (mothers passing on their body insecurities), but you wrote it so well & I can see your side—I can see how this thing can happen in tiny slips, & slides. Bravo to you for catching yourself!

  • thefluter

    This is lovely. Happy new year!

  • http://ultimatemamacat.tumblr.com/ Hana Graham

    Thank you so much for this article. I’m approaching motherhood dealing with EDNOS and it terrifies me what kind of influence even my subtle bizarre eating habits are going to have on my future children. This was so brave, thank you.

    • Samantha_Escobar

      Same. I’m terrified of obliviously giving my future kids body image issues without even realizing it, so I’m so glad I read this piece.

  • brebay

    You might be amazed at how much it lifts your own self-esteem as well. I have sons, but I stopped doing this when I had them because I didn’t want them to judge women by their looks, and it’s amazing how even years of negative self-talk can be undone in your own head just by what you stop saying out loud!

    • Kay_Sue

      I honestly think this is just as important for moms of boys. What your sons see in your reaction to other women, as well as yourself as a woman, will most definitely reflect in how they view women as adults. Bravo to you–and I am glad you got the chance to enjoy a self esteem bump from it too!! :)

  • jenstar

    SO many hugs for you for writing this. My sister has crazy body issues because of my father’s body dysmorphia. Our whole lives he’s gone on about ‘getting fat’, even as an older father my dad was always far from fat. Now as a man in his 80s his skin hangs on him like a baggy coat on a coathanger. I was more resiliant than my sister, and it breaks my heart to see her struggle with this. So thank you again, Theresa. Your daughter is so lucky to have such an eloquent mum.

    • Natasha B

      People don’t talk as much about dad’s body shaming, but they do. I watch 2 little girls (5 &6) and their older sister (9) a few afternoons a week, and ohhhh I want to punch their father in the face. The girls are very, very petite, even to being bony, and they always ask how many calories are in the snack I’m serving (apple and cheese slices! Greek yogurt smoothies!) because daddy says they’re getting fat. Grandma took them to mcdonalds yesterday, so they have to eat light today. Is that milk skim? Mom does nothing but make it worse by constantly talking about it in front of them, then talking about how he gives her crap (she’s 5’9, a slim 4, all legs). I just want to shake them. Their 9 yo already has serious issues, I don’t know how they can’t see it. On the nights they eat dinner with us, I really try to reinforce that it’s not calories, it’s fuel for your body, and as long as your body is getting a healthy balance, your body needs this food to grow and run. Hubby sees it too, and it has made us sooo extra careful around our own kids (we have 2 girls and a boy) to talk about a strong, healthy body instead of a sexy one.

    • http://www.gamedevwidow.weebly.com/ Theresa Edwards

      this makes me so sad! I think we always decided we wouldn’t emphasize looks–either because I didn’t want her to think that they were important or because I didn’t want her to get a big head (she IS cute). But I am starting to realize that kids need to hear that they are smart AND beautiful.

    • pixie

      That’s horrible!! While there is nothing wrong with instilling healthy eating habits at a young age, this is just overboard. Eating healthy is not counting calories and “eating light” the day after eating at McDonalds. It’s eating a balanced diet and being as active as one’s schedule allows for. A nine year old should not be worrying about calorie intake or wondering whether or not the milk is skim. Aside from medical conditions and allergies that limit food options, children that young shouldn’t worry about how healthy their food is and think they’re getting fat, especially when they’re nowhere close to being “on the heavier side”.

  • Natasha B

    Thank you so much for sharing this!!! I do believe we can help our kids with a positive body image (even with all the media) and you owning up to it is fantastic :) I try really hard not to complain about the leftover baby bump (which is currently growing another one, yet still hasn’t disappeared from the previous) but sometimes I have to stop myself. I want my kids to be strong, healthy, and proud of themselves-no matter what :)
    So, put your daughter in any pageants yet??? Grew up in TN for awhile, folks were planning pageant entries for my oldest when I was still pregnant ;) up here in the frigid north they aren’t as big on that ;)
    And you can totally gossip about someone, as long as you follow it with ‘Bless her heart!’
    I do miss the south, some days

    • http://www.gamedevwidow.weebly.com/ Theresa Edwards


  • James

    So good. I’m glad your daughter could teach you this beautiful lesson

    • http://www.gamedevwidow.weebly.com/ Theresa Edwards

      Is this who I think it is?

  • Fuzzy ‘n Broken Mirror

    What’s with the Honey Boo Boo hatin’?

    • http://www.gamedevwidow.weebly.com/ Theresa Edwards

      Noooo! I love HBB. But yeah, toddler pageants are kinda ick.

  • Kerry

    I love this article. Besides being well written and funny, it hits home with me because my mom constantly put herself down in front of me when I was growing up. She called herself variations of fat or ugly more time than I can remember, and always hid from any nearby camera, “joking” that she would break it. She also put down others’ looks, and still does. It led me to have tons of body image issues. Now that I have a daughter, this is one thing I have resolved not to pass on to her.

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