That Word.

July 12th, 2011

Just a few words,
enough to make me sick.
A few ugly words, so wrong
“What?” I ask,
now she has to say it again.
Now I hear it twice,
making it worse.

“My legs are fat”
She says,
Twice.
Just like that.
FAT
That word, in her mouth about her
self
ugly and bitter
Who put that word in my baby girl’s mouth?

Her 7yr old lanky legs
like a foal’s too long for her body.
Legs that climb and dance,
Strong and certain of all they can do.
Now curled up under her,
so innocent.
Not
fat.

I hesitate, before I initiate
the lecture on health and beauty.
You know the one.
Yeh, I’ve heard it, said it, preached it, cried it
to my girl.
But do I
believe
it?
If I don’t believe it
for myself
she will not hear.
Only
fear.

Will she know the words are true
when I tell her she is perfect?
Will she believe me?
Oh please believe me,

Believe. In. Me.
I tell
myself.
Now two girls need to listen,
One only 7, the other 40.
Just two girls side by side.

Be gentle, careful, thankful.
Who are you to criticize
even yourself?
Especially yourself.
Be quiet inside, where it counts,
and listen
to her.
To the one who loves you
and your legs.

So use those strong long legs
to stand
Up.
Go on, stand up!
Use those legs that hold you
up right
to walk in the light
to fight
another day
against that ugly word
in the mouths of our girls
that word
fat.

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  1. siouxsie says:

    I really used ugly words for my legs for a long time — some verbal, but mostly in my head. Just this year (I’m 43) I finally looked at my legs and loved them. They didn’t change, I did. I love my whole self now. I stood in the shower and rubbed soap on my legs and as it washed off I apologized to my lovely legs for all the years of my not liking them. They have taken me so many places and let me do so many wonderful things! I told my two girls this story… because I’m hoping they learn younger than I did. BTW, I’ve heard those ugly words from my 10 year old too — and she has long slender legs … legs I would have envied as a child. I’m hoping as I continue on my journey of self love, my daughters can join me. Peace!

  2. meg says:

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. I am so glad you have come to love and accept all of who you are. Your daughters are lucky to have such a strong and compassionate  mother! Namaste.
     

  3. Kathy says:

    Have even heard those words from my 6 year old.  What a fantastic poem.  I’m going to print it.  Thank you Meg!

  4. twowisegals says:

    Wonderful words of wisdom…in addition to presenting a disturbing parenting issue, you’ve captured the many sentiments within a mother struggling with a response to her daughter at a pivotal time in their relationship…wish I had had those insights when my daughters posed their body image concerns…impressive that you did.

  5. Helen Shultz-Kamadulski says:

    That was so beautiful.  Thank you!

  6. Joane says:

    I spent too many years hating my body but not anymore.  It may not be perfect in the eyes of society but it is perfectly strong and is amazing in so many other ways.  Can totally relate to what siouxsie wrote. I hate that young girls critisize themselves so much.
    Beautiful poem – thank you for sharing x

  7. Kitty Carlyle says:

    I find this really strange.  I’m only 38 and none of my friends and I ever thought twice about our bodies at that age or commented negatively, but I hear that it’s standard behavior today.  It’s like it’s parents influence against this current looks obsessed celeb culture.  Even if you tell your daughter she’s perfect, she might be thinking it’s her potential mate she’s worried about impressing someday.  That must be such a difficult thing for kids today when so much value of a human being is placed on appearance.  I wonder why things changed like this so quickly?  It seems to come with the obesity epidemic.

  8. Meg says:

    I am glad these words resonated with so many. I’m also sad these words resonated with so many.

  9. Brett says:

    I am the father of a girl and the husband of another. I have seen the way this collection of letters has been used to describe them. I have used it to describe myself. I am drawn to your poem on a day of enormous opening and thanksgiving for me. I am actively working on loving myself so that the ripple of that love flows out to these two beautiful, radiant eternal, beings for whom I have such gratitude and love. This poem touched me deeply and I will reread it many times to bring me back to this overwhelming sense of who I am and who they are.
    Thank you.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Brett, Thank you for your words. Thank you for your honesty, your knowing and your compassion. The women in your life are lucky to have you in their corner. Meg

  11. As I read your words and the comments and thought of my 4 year old granddaughter. Will she be saying those things at the young ages of 6, or 7 or 10. I hope not. I hope she loves and appreciates her body at any and every age.
    It’s scary to me that young girls are thinking they’re fat. Maybe my son and daughter-in-law’s stand on no tv etc. will help thwart some of it.

  12. meg says:

    Cherry, with such a caring grandmother, she is sure to feel loved.  And preventing crazy images of what women should be entering her little mind and self thought will go a long way too! Girls are targeted at such a young age it’s very hard to protect them when billboards, mail, shops….tell them what is beautiful. We must in the end use these as an opportunity to teach our girls AND our boys what true beauty is.

  13. NLC_55 says:

    I have to say what this lady said make me cry as one so young  could feel that way, which i can under stand  as for too many years i was told i was fat ugly and stpid. The fact it can start so young now is sad to make a child think she has fat legs when still growing, body image is important to us the older we become and it can be just as  important as we still need to feel good about ourselves, our bodys change with age but we still need to keep a positive about how our body looks it is a big part of who we. 

  14. Arielle says:

    awesome poem post. Passionate about teaching our young girls positive body image and self-love. :)

  15. Betsy says:

    Late to this party, but loving, and relating, to this post. Haven’t heard this yet, but my girl has my legs, the very same legs that caused me so much angst, despite taking me to Olympic heights, simply because they didn’t fit perfectly into Levi 501′s. Now my girl has these damn skinny jeans to contend with. I’m holding my breath, hoping, praying I don’t ever hear her utter those ugly words.

  16. Maria P. says:

    #1, Parents subconsciously pass down all their low self-esteem to their children regardless of the positive words they use. They should address those issues before they have kids instead of hoping their kids would give them self-esteem.  And #2, unless children aren’t very bright, they realize early that their parents are saying nice things to them because they want them to feel better, not because those things are necessarily true.

  17. [...] Somewhere around the time this poem broke my heart, [...]

  18. While I don’t have a daughter, this issue concerns me to the core – for all my son’s friends that are girls and their families. And for all the potential young women he may date. Thank you for giving this very important topic a voice.

  19. So beautifully written- I was literally just thinking about this issue while making supper and then read your tweet. So sad how society and ignorance has done this to innocent little children. I know so many who suffer from eating disorders and panic when my teeny tiny 5yr old looks in the mirror and says “uch im so fat” ( her ribs jutting out of her scrawny form) and i think the same thing! Who put that idea into my little ones head?! Why are adults so clueless to this issue- making callous jokes and remarks about food making you fat- please everyone pass along the message- we want our bodies to be healthy not skinny. 

  20. Sven Seifert says:

    Well I can only agree to all comments. It is making sick to hear some people using ugly words.

  21. Reena says:

    Thank you Meg for this article. Oh it resonates with me so much !When my 9 year old says that she is fat and her legs are so big, my heart goes out to her. But to both my son [a scrawny 12] and my daughter[9] my response has always been ‘ Its fit that we should be, not thin/fat ‘ and try and walk the talk so that she may imbibe it as she grows up. 

  22. ellen says:

    Meg,What a beautiful and important poem for all to read and sit with……thank you for all your thoughts on parenting. As I watch and witness so many of my patients,  now mommies, young and older, I know how important it is for all parents to share the joys as well as the downright humbling, bumbling moments of being someone’s mom and dad~And thank you for following me!  

  23. Konstantina says:

    Incredibly beautiful and powerful. Thank you! <3

  24. Elaine says:

    Powerful, Meg.  Thanks. 

  25. Judy says:

    I love your posts – thank you for adding something positive to my day!

  26. Julia Melges-Brenner says:

    I love your posts as well!! Thank you for spreading messages of love and kindness…

  27. Sherry says:

    Simply beautiful!

  28. I used to hate hate hate my legs as well and it wasn’t until I was about 32 that I started to love them and think of them as the strong carriers of me I am so thankful for.  I have a young daughter and so hope she can avoid the self hate.  Great post.