It finally happened: one of my kids called me fat. Honestly, I never expected my kids to think my weight was an issue, at least not when they’re this young. Somehow they’ve learned what fat means. I’m not offended; I mean, my daughter called me fat, not gorda!
I am a pretty active mom. I don’t let my weight ever hold me back, and I do a lot of things with my kids. We’ve never talked about weight until a recent visit to the doctor with my daughter. Maybe that’s where she picked up the word fat. As I angrily explained to my husband that I was not putting my healthy 4-year-old on a diet, I clearly remember my words: “She is not fat. She’s healthy and active and there’s nothing wrong — she is still growing!” You see, the doctor had said she was overweight by 8 pounds. According to the charts the doctor used to check her weight and height ratio, she’s overweight. I received a calorie-counting diet pamphlet for my 4-year-old.
Don’t get me wrong — when she called me fat, I was shocked. I was expecting it to hurt more though, as I thought I had an issue with the word fat, but it honestly didn’t. I kind of wanted to giggle, but I knew that wasn’t okay. Had she used the Spanish word for fat, gorda, I would have had a huge problem with it.
I was never really bullied as a kid, but my Mexican culture could be harsh at times. The adults were my biggest problem, and I constantly heard gordita or gorda in conversations of grown adults being judgmental of a child like me. Anytime “-ITA” is placed after a word it’s supposed to make it cute, but really there’s nothing cute about gordita when the intention is to criticize a child. Still, not even that word could have held me back from embracing my curves!
As I was thinking about how to have this talk with my daughter, I tried to remember if I ever called anyone fat. I don’t think I ever did. That could be because I have always been the little fat kid. I also had a lot of respect and fear for my parents and older relatives. I knew if I would disrespect them by calling out their flaws, I would have got a chancla, sandal, thrown at me.
Nonetheless, when my daughter said, “Momma, you’re fat” and giggled, my son’s eyes widened and so did mine. I think my son got the memo on not calling anyone names. My daughter still has a lot to learn. I needed to correct this fast! I told her it wasn’t nice to call anyone names. I composed my thoughts, and I sat with my daughter and told her that it’s not nice to tell someone they are fat. You don’t have to point out something like that — it’s rude and not polite, even if it’s true. We don’t giggle at people either, because you wouldn’t want someone giggling at you, right? She felt sad. She knew I was serious and she said sorry.
I find it interesting that I was just in shock to hear her say it in English, but obviously the issues of hearing it in Spanish are still there. As their mom who is overweight and aware of the weight, I don’t walk around in shame. My kids see my confidence and how nothing ever has stopped me because of my weight. That doesn’t mean it’s okay to point it out to me or anyone. Still I’m not offended. I mean, she called me fat, not gorda.
Have your kids ever called you fat or gorda?
Read more of Ruby’s writing at Growing Up Blackxican