Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Why I let children hurt my feelings

"You have a hole in your head," a niece of mine declared bluntly a few years ago. She was pointing to my forehead--the very distinct chicken-pock scar above my left eyebrow that looks like a little crater. I laughed at the honest assessment and said, "Yes, I do have a hole in my head."

The hole in my head was fine, funny really, but lately I haven't been able to shrug-off the comments from blunt little ones--especially the FAT comments. For example, after hearing that I was pregnant, a young boy asked, "Oh so that's why you're so fat?" I responded, "Well, I'm really not that fat." He was confused, "No, you actually look pretty fat to me." He wasn't trying to be rude; he was quite serious and firm in his observation.

On a different occasion a boy whispered (I say whispered when I really mean SHOUTED in a raspy voice, clearly audible) "Guess what, I have to tell you a secret," speaking to my then two-year-old daughter. Ally leaned her head toward the boy eager to hear the news, "Your Mom is really fat!" He put his hand to his mouth and laughed in my direction. It didn't really faze my daughter, but I was mad! His intent was clearly malicious. "That is not a nice thing to say, and you know it," I said in a firm tone, "You owe me an apology." He looked down, shamed, as if to say, "Oh No! You weren’t supposed to HEAR that," then said sorry.

There are several other specific examples of this exact circumstance, but I think you get the picture: Kids think I'm fat and are not afraid to tell me to my face. The second child in my opinion was old enough to know that he was being rude, but most of the time, kids are just kids--honest and blunt. The child is simply stating a fact, a description of his or her visual perception, so why do I let it hurt? Here's what I came up with. First, I'm hormonal--a sad commercial hurts right now. Second, these things are usually said in the presence of my daughter and I am wary of her acquiring some sort of complex amongst her peers about having a Fat Mommy. Third, the paranoid, catty, old lady in me says, "Their skinny moms put them up to this!" Fourth, unlike the children, I have the experiences that have helped me attach other meanings to "You are fat," like “You are”: useless, ugly, lazy, yucky, etc. And finally, it simply hurts to hear no matter where it comes from.

So I'd like to hear your opinion on the matter. Have kids ever said hurtful things to you? Were you able to shrug it off without much thought? Should kids be allowed to say these things just because they are kids, or should they know better? How do you socialize your children to be sensitive while still having good judgment about reality? Thanks for letting me whine, and I'm eager to hear your response.


  1. Bina, the Prychodcko kids made a print out of an elephant with the phrase "if you're fat you're fat" and gave it to me.

    Then there was Edmund, who told me as he looked at his legs next to mine, "you are fat in the legs."

    The worst is after having a baby a kid says, "is there still a baby in there?"

    What is it about bratty babysitting kids? They are the worst!

    A kid has never called anyone skinny, or at least not me. I think they are looking at their tinny bodies and comparing them to ours, and no matter what we are bigger, curvier, etc.

    We gotta teach our kids not to voice these observations. There was a 500 lb lady at costco one time and tilly, age 3, said, "WHOA, look at that FAT LADY." I was really embarassed, told her that was not a nice thing to say. Hopefully she do that again.

    What's funny is in mexico, "gorda" or "gordita" (meaning, fat or fatty) are terms of endearment. Maybe we should adopt their meaning and we'll feel better.

  2. I agree with you 100%. The younger ones don't know any better, they don't know that it is a social taboo. It is just an observation. Kiera points out black people and I wonder if it offends them.

    I think your reaction to the older boy was exactly right. I would have done the same thing. He needs a mother to sit him down and explain that it is not appropriate. Unfortunately most mothers are not there to explain these things so most kids are going to keep doing it because they get a reaction from friends.

    I can see how this could hurt your feelings, espeically while pregnant!! I'm sorry!

  3. Well, Anthony did say something really funny to me last year. He was looking at my braces and said, "Why do you have Robot teeth?" ha!

    I've got to work more with Phillip. I'm trying to teach him that we only care about having healthy bodies, not about being skinny or fat. Gak!

    Well, hang in there bina! You are ALL right! next time say, "well, I'm rubber and you're glue, what ever you say bounces off of me and sticks to YOU!" I think the mom's would appreciate that!

  4. You are a very nice person. Yes, kids are generally just being honest but there is nothing wrong with letting them know when it's just plain inappropriate to let every thought that they have in their head ooze out like we want to hear it. Grow a filter, kids! Which doesn't mean we have stopped loving you, children of the world, it's just that sometimes we get sick of hearing you say the darndest things and would like to offer you a tall glass of "shuuuuuut uuuuuuuuuup!" With a hug, of course.

  5. A few years ago... like 25 I was teaching a song in primary... imagine that... and a boy came up to me and spit on me. How clever. I was really up set with the whole situation. I approached his mother and she said. "Now who is the adult here? You need to get over it! Boys will be boys!" From then on I have tried ignore the bratty little kids like that with parents who seemed to forget to teach their children any social respect or manners. All I can say is that I have told and told this story to my own kids. I have explained that that attitude is not acceptable and that I had better never hears anything like that from them. Hopefully as my kids grew up they have remembered that. There was a time when I heard that one of my boys said something rude to a little girl on a bus. He was expected to apologize and report back. He did. If children have parents who have not themselves learned descent behavior then where will they get it? You were right telling him he was out of line. His mom sure forgot to. The retribution you can do is NONE... However, teach your own children to be kind and gentle to others. I always tried to look for stories or situations to point out to my kids so they could see,understand and hopefully decide what is right and what is wrong. This is just one of those really good bad examples to stuff away in your head to use to make a point to your own children. Back to that little boy. He grew up and is gone now. His Mom remains very controversial and doesn't have alot of respect from many adults even now. But boys will be boys....unacceptable!! Boys will not be boys if they are taught correctly. She didn't know that.

  6. Bina, if it makes you feel better... Anthony was standing behind me the other day and said. "Mom, your bum is really huge!" He wasn't trying to be mean, but just making an observation. I think for kids our size is even more exagerated because of their small size and height - my bum is right at his eye level. I need to work on his filter a little, I guess. Hang in there!

  7. There's been a couple of times when I've blown up at my kids for saying something about my squishy tummy. I have to remind them that they should NEVER make comments about a womens body, or they will see the wrath of an angry mommy. Little Emily is so innocent though, and still makes comments, and wonders if there's still a baby in my tummy. Sometimes it's a good motivater for me to put that extra cookie down though. :)

  8. You articulated that so well. Like amazingly well. First of all, I sincerely hope it was not my son who made this comment...and if it was,(or ever is) you have my permission to react as you see fit!

    It hurts no matter what. It hurts to hear kids say it. It hurts to see it for yourself in a picture. It hurts to NOT have people dispute it when you complain about it yourself. And while we love kids for their inherent honesty, that honesty is clearly a double edged sword that needs to be tempered.

    Sounds like your experience was not a kid being honest, but being mean. And you can't continue to give kids a pass beyond the age of excusability. So again, if it was Eli...I truly apologize. I have never heard him say anything like that, but if I did... oh man.