I have reared my children to critique my appearance to ensure that I never leave the house looking unkempt, or heaven forbid, frumpy! Every morning before we head to school,I get dressed and visit first my daughter and then my son, so they can assure me that I am well-groomed, nothing short of gorgeous, and ready to meet the day.
After many years of following this daily routine; however, I became concerned when I noticed that with every critique, whether I asked the question or not, my son began to follow up his review of my appearance with,“No, Momma, you are not fat!”
At first I was puzzled by his response. I wracked my brain trying to figure out why he felt it necessary to add such an affirmation. Could my actions in some way prompt him to feel this need? Quite curious, I began to analyze the time my son and I spent together…
Hmmm… Let’s see…we play the “Who is Fatter” game? (This is played by asking the question, “Sam, Who is fatter, :_ or me? (Fill in the blank with randomly chosen female’s name.)
Then there is the “Who is Prettier” game. This game is played by asking the question, “Sam, Who is prettier, :_ or me? (Again fill in randomly chosen female’s name.)
He always answered that I was the prettier and thinner of the choices I gave him, and there is no way that his answer was a conditioned one. After all, they always say if you want to know the truth ask a child, right? No, after careful consideration I was sure that he was merely being honest with me, and that my actions were in no way affecting his answers, therefore, not taking away from his childlike honesty and innocence.
I pushed away the cloud of concern and went on my way, but I found myself revisiting these thoughts several times over in the next few weeks wondering if my poor self esteem was in some way playing games with my poor son’s childhood tendency to tell the truth. Was he saying what he thought I wanted him to say just to keep from hurting my feelings? This could not be healthy could it? If that were indeed the case, what was I teaching my child with my insecurity?… To be dishonest?…. To hold back his real feelings? To lie to shut me up???? Was I denying him the short lived right of a child to toss out the truth without any fear of repercussion??
Fortunately, it didn’t take too long to have my fears permanently laid to rest. Just a few weeks into my parenting skill re-evaluation, I woke up late. I rushed to get dressed, make breakfast, round up backpacks and homework, lunches and jackets,and shove both my children and me into the car. Grabbing the wheel and preparing to tear out of the driveway on two wheels causing jelly toast to be stuck to the car windows, I realized that I had not had time to ask my then nine-year- old daughter and five-year-old son my usual, “Do I look o.k.? Already being in an incredible hurry, I forewent the usual drill and cut straight to the chase. “Do I look fat?” I announced. My question hung ominously in the air – the ugliness of my desperate need for reassurance juxtaposed against the purity and innocence of my precious elementary schoolers. The silence was deafening…for about a split second. Then from the back seat, a very sleepy and grumpy five- year-old voice replied, “You got a fat head!
HMMMPH!! His response hit me in the back of my “fat” head and ricocheted around the car. My eyes began to well with tears!! This was not the response I had expected at all… and I was ecstatic. My waning ego had not tarnished the purity of my children after all. Their honesty had not been hijacked by my poor self-esteem!! Alas, all was well with the world, and more importantly I had learned a very important lesson that day. What they say IS true. If you want to know the truth, ask a child!!!!.