As I write this, seven month old Emma is passed out in my arms. Each time my hands move across the keyboard, her body jiggles a little from the motion. She doesn’t seem to mind, though. She seems comfortable. Across the room, her three-year-old sister Hannah is cuddled against her pillows on the couch, taking a rest from the activities of this busy Saturday. In the next town over, eight-and-a-half month old Paige and her twin sister Simone are probably sitting on their parent’s laps, as they usually do around this time, eating dinner with the family. Giggles and smiles, demands to be “down” and go as they please. Joy.
Four little girls. Four beautiful, perfect little girls that I hold very dear to my heart.
As a nanny, I tend to constantly be surrounded by children of one sort or another.Today I met a ten-year-old girl. She was the most intelligent, vivacious little lady that I’ve met in a long time. An energetic ball of red hair and freckles, “pleases” and “thank yous”, she was truly a joy to be around. (Nannies love kids with good manners: FACT.) She was the tag-along-friend of sassy Zoe from down the street, who comes over on the weekends to rough house in the yard with Hannah and Emma’s three rough-and-tumble older brothers, and she latched on to me almost immediately. This was a child thirsting for knowledge, and I answered her questions to the best of my ability: Why did you get your tattoos? Did they hurt? Did you go to college? Do you like make-up? Did you dye your hair? Should I dye mine? I like nail polish, do you? All questions from a curious little girl trying to grasp the world around her. And then, she threw out this one:
“Do you think it’s bad to have a big body instead of a small body?”
I stopped what I was doing, and turned around. Looking back at me were two concerned blue eyes, set into the chubby-cheeked face of a sweet little girl with a heart of gold.
“My mommy says I need to have a smaller body, so I need to eat healthier. But I do eat healthy.”
If her mother had been in the room, I probably would have smacked her ’round the head a few times and booted her once in the ass, just for good measure. Because, seriously? WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING TO YOUR KID?!
I support health at any size. I support exercise, and eating good food, and being happy in the body that you have. I don’t support giving a ten year old kid a complex about her shape, when she hasn’t even started DEVELOPING a shape yet. I don’t support telling your kid that she needs to eat healthier, when you, as the parent, are the one in charge of putting food on your child’s plate.
What the fuck are we doing to these kids?! We’re exposing them to a world that, from the youngest of ages, tells them that they are too fat/skinny/ugly/pretty/tall/short/curvy/athletic/well-endowed/flat-chested/overall-not-good-enough-for-anyone. And then, on top of that, we’re telling them to change things that they literally have no control over. (Because, really people, when was the last time you saw a ten-year-old hop in the car, drive herself to Whole Foods, and peruse the organic goods section, sans parental units?) I’ll tell you what is happening. We are body shaming a bunch of little kids. We are body shaming a bunch of little kids, who will grow into women that we will also body shame, because society as a whole is filled with a bunch of dickheads.
It’s bad enough that we’re already letting the world tell our daughters that all they’re good for is standing around and looking pretty. We’re already telling them that their intelligence comes second to whether or not their shoes match their handbags. Now we’re telling them that they have to be thin, well-matched, vapid, and impossibly beautiful/perfect. Essentially, we’re telling them that they aren’t good enough.
Well, fuck that.
I don’t know about you, but I refuse. I refuse to let the world tell Hannah, Emma, Paige, Simone, Zoe, and sweet-faced Olivia that they will never be good enough. I will tell them every chance I get that they are perfect. And you know why? Because they are. The only way that things are going to change is if we fight back. We need to push back, and let the collective “them” know that the only thing they’re going to get from bullying our girls is a well-deserved, figurative ass-kicking. And if that doesn’t work?
Well then I suppose a real ass-kicking is in order.