Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Toddlers have no PC button

What do you do?

Last week, leaving the pediatrician's office we enter the elevator to find one lone woman traveling our way, down to the first floor.  As the door closes, Cate pipes up "Why is your tummy so big?!"

Oh dear god.

In a wild attempt to deflect the offense and maybe give this poor woman sense of "yeah, so there!" I interjected with "Daddy has a big tummy too, lots of people have big tummies."  My husband, thankfully, was not there to hear me say this and I would like to think I wouldn't have if he HAD been there, but actually I totally might have.  Just to make it less pointedly awful.  Which would've just made the situation come home with me, but still...knee jerk response.   Also, I didn't want to say "Catherine, no, she doesn't!" because well, she was obese.  And what does it teach my kid to deny what's plainly obvious?

Hoping Cate would take that line of conversation and run with it, she then says with certainty, a little bit of disdain, and a lot of drama, "Your tummy's WAY bigger!"

Scotty, beam me up.

Thankfully there were no stops to other floors and the door opened just a few seconds later while the woman was saying something like "I've had lots of practice!" (god love her) and I skedaddled the three of us out of there while mouthing an exaggerated 'I'm sorry!' to this poor fellow human being just taking an innocent elevator ride until she got stabbed by a 3 year old where it hurts.

It would hurt me at least.

So this situation then begs the question.  What do you do?  Teachable moment, right?   I'm supposed to teach her that there are times to think things and say them.  Times to think things, and keep them in your head.   Because sometimes the things you say can hurt someone's feelings.
Except I'd also like her to learn no one can hurt her feelings without her permission, she can decide if she wants to feel hurt or not when someone is mean or says something innocently enough but could be hurtful just the same.  So I tell her that things she says could hurt someone's feelings, but that she doesn't need to be hurt by things others say?  A conflicting message, to say the least.
And, more immediate in this situation, I don't necessarily want to bring forth the notion of negative body image, that fat is something to be ashamed of and not spoken of aloud.

So seriously.  Input on what you've done in similar situation or thoughts in general are welcome!


  1. I can't pretend that wouldn't make me cringe, but I went to this seminar on talking to kids about difference that was intended to be a discussion of race, but size came up too. The facilitator pointed out that kids have no sense of shame in regard to size (or color). Cate's observation was correct and she voiced it. Our society teaches us that being overweight or obese is something shameful that is impolite to mention--and, problematically, the same messages often get communicated about race. The response the facilitator suggested was close to what you said, actually. Something totally neutral like, "People come in all different sizes." (Of course, she could come back with something like, "But she's the BIGGEST lady EVER!", in which case there's nothing for you to do but run away.) He also suggested telling kids that it is unkind to talk about other people's bodies, but of course so many social messages tell kids differently. It's not easy!

  2. I think you did the best you could! You can talk about it at home and like Melissa commented, try to teach her not to comment about another's appearance, but at the same time it doesn't mean you don't want her to feel she CANT comment, it's just hard trying to teach them when it's appropriate to comment. We once passed a lady in a store and Finn asked (THANKFULLY out of earshot), "does she have a baby in her tummy?" And I said no and that if he ever wondered if someone did he needs to ask me first. My nephew once asked my mother in law the same question though. She was a good sport.

    I think like Brooke mentioned it's good to talk about how we are all different shapes and sizes. I keep that in my back pocket for when/if my kids as about someone with disabilities. A boy in my stroller string moms class has down syndrome and honestly I don't think a single kid knows he's any different, but should it ever come up I would say, "you know how you have brown hair, but so-and-so had blonde hair?" and hope that going down that path would be enough.

    In the meantime, you'll remember this and laugh about it years from now as just life with inquisitive toddlers.

  3. It's the wonderful and frightful thing about children, right? Honest. Like you said, there are times to say and times to JUST THINK. You're going to think anyway. We all judge. It's not kind. It's not fair. But of they could just learn empathy and really, my 4yo doesn't have that, but he's also not at all aware or with care about others. I can see Claire doing this first.

    Things to think and things to say. Because hurting people never has a purpose.

    This parenting gig, huh?