Making Sense of Body Shaming: Toddler Talk

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Once again, Clarabelle has opened up my mind to the mind of a two year old. In fact, she has opened up the mind for many members of our family and we (nervously) await her doing the same for total strangers. While it is always a concern to wonder how others will react to a toddler’s logic, it is important to encourage them to see the world through their own innocent eyes and to encourage them to feel confident in expressing their discoveries.

As many of you know, my granddaughter Clarabelle spent a year in foster care. During one of our visits, she inquired about the different sizes of “boobs.” Of course, we could speculate as to how my two year old granddaughter came to know this term (believe me we did) but the findings suggest that different families speak in different ways and this is not always intended to be perverse. I state this to say that I do not believe (nor did any of specialists) that her interests in boobs came from anything of concern but rather an innocent moment of joking with her brother. Regardless, we had less than two hours to answer all of her questions in a way that would not make anyone uncomfortable.

Our answer was simple. Everyone grows and this means that all of our body parts grow. Some people grow in different ways but eating our food, sleeping well, being good, and listening to her mommy would all help her to grow exactly the way she is supposed to go.

That is as much as you can direct a child in a two hour visit. It was the best that we could think of and it seemed to stick. This inquiry occurred approximately 8 months ago and has not been discussed in detail since. Just over four months ago, my grandchildren came home. We continue to answer every question and make certain to not say anything that would make her feel insecure. Gradually, the extended family has been integrated into their lives and this means that, not only do the children have a lot of adjusting to do, the family has had to learn to adjust to the logical explanations that Clarabelle gives us about things that would normally make us uncomfortable. This is where our toddler talk begins today.

My mother, who was granted two hours every two weeks during the CPS case, never lost contact with the children which made her move towards a full time presence fairly simplistic. She stepped into the living room and Elliott ran to her laughing. As she lifted him up, she took a seat next to Clarabelle on the couch who hugged her and said, “Nanny, I am so proud of you. Your belly is big!” Mind you, my mother is a very healthy woman and has actually lost a great deal of weight over the last year that has allowed her to cease all but one of her regular medications and given her a boost of confidence that has taken years off of her appearance. Yet, based on what was just said, all she could hear was that her belly was big.

When a two year old gives you a compliment, it is pure and honest. Clarabelle knows that a person should eat, be nice, sleep well, and listen to their parents in order to grow. She looked at her great grandmother, not as a person who needed to be concerned about her weight, but rather as a person that she looked up to. Clarabelle saw someone who she wanted to be more like. Someone that she was proud of.

Fortunately, my mother was aware of the way that we speak to Clarabelle about these things. She recognized what the child was saying and responded accordingly. One can only imagine how Clarabelle will see herself the first time that someone tells her that she is wrong about what growing means. Perhaps the growing that we adults need to do has nothing to do with eating, sleeping, or listening but simply about being good and nice to others.

To grow, eat right, sleep well, listen, and above all, be nice!

“Gigi”

Author: smudgesonmymirror

A dynamic mother/daughter duo that has overcome obstacles and chosen to embrace our experiences rather than to change our view of ourselves. Lovingly labeled by Gigi or Mommy, the tone and messages in each post will reflect generational viewpoints and family continuances.

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