As mothers, we always have the best intentions about our kids. But sometimes, we end up conveying our best intentions with the wrong words.
Before I got pregnant with Soumya, I swore that I would not be the kind of mother who will pinpoint her child’s appearance or shortcomings. I was raised by a very understanding mother, who made sure my confidence was not sabotaged by my grandmother’s hurtful comments about my appearances.
But sadly, I had enough friends, who were witnessing the harmful consequences of being raised by critical mothers. Mothers who would compare them for their complexion, height, weight, personality or intellectual capabilities.
And the result?
Adult women who are under-confident shattered souls convinced that they are not good enough –Not pretty enough, Not skinny enough, or Not smart enough.
The fact is, today we have so many women who have this constant voice inside their head, that just keeps complaining about their awful body image. It is like their mothers or grandmothers are sitting inside and constantly repeating the same negative comments.
I never wanted to be that voice for my daughter. But unknowingly, I said something that I shouldn’t have.
She’s 8 years old, she is very cute and has an awesome sense of humor. It was a Saturday afternoon and she was extremely excited about her best friend’s birthday party she had to attend that day. And the reason – the theme of the party was “DISNEY PRINCESSES”.
For the entire last week, I kept asking her to buy a new dress for the party. I knew very well that she didn’t have any dress that could serve the purpose of the occasion. But Soumya is one of those kids, who are born with a sense of independence and resourcefulness.
She just plainly refused every time and kept telling me, “Mama, don’t worry. I know what I will wear to the party.”
Saturday afternoon arrived and Soumya went inside her room. After about 30 minutes, she came out swanning out in a red top along with my multiple scarfs on top of her mini skirt resembling MOANA – the Disney princess.
And then it all happened.
I should have said, “You are looking so cute.”
But, what I said was completely horrible and sad!
I said, “Oh look, you’re getting a bit chubby there.”
I had not even completed my sentence when I realized what I had done.
Within a fraction of a second, her face which was beaming with excitement & joy became full of sadness and grief.
And, there is no excuse for the shameful way I behaved with my daughter.
“I’m sorry, Soumya!” “I’m so sorry, darling. I should never have said that.”
For the next 10 minutes, I kept apologizing to her in all possible ways, but she just kept looking at the floor. And then she said, “You’re mean. You don’t love me anymore” and started crying uncontrollably.
I started crying as well and hugged her. It took me a few more minutes before I could say my next words, “I’m sorry, baby. I know I was mean and I don’t like it either. I’ll not ever do that to you again”
I tried to do a damage control by praising her ability to stand up for herself.
I praised her choice of picking my favorite Disney princess. And, how Moana was strong, fierce less and brave like her. Talking to her, hugging her and crying with her for the next 1 hour, I managed to get her smile back on her face. But, the joy in her eyes was replaced with doubt.
Later that evening, she told her friend that she wasn’t hungry and hence, she won’t have cake or snacks.
Since that day, I’ve been thinking about that moment. It has been over a week now and I still can’t believe that I said that. My husband keeps telling me to stop thinking about it. He says it’s one of those moments, that will be buried with other countless other moments.
I hope he is right. But, I am afraid what if he isn’t.
All of us have those moments that were supposed to be forgotten with time but rather ended up getting permanently etched in our memory. These incidents remain so vivid in our memories that they end up defining us in important ways.
As a parent, we have anxieties, worries & concerns and we want nothing but the best for our kids. But sometimes despite our best intentions, we say things that do more harm than good.
While some people would like to discount every wrong word that they said by giving an excuse that they are only human or that they were too tired to regulate their words or emotions. But that’s not me. I wish I could have been more in control of my words that day.
I want to raise a strong, confident and proud kid, who is not ashamed of anything about herself. And definitely not about her body.
So, I vowed to myself that I would never ever comment on my daughter’s physical appearances. I feel I have to try harder to regulate my thoughts and emotions to ensure that I don’t do it again.
I don’t want to be that voice in her head that criticises her whenever she looks in the mirror.
Instead, I want to be the voice that always feeds her internally with enough positivity to last them a lifetime.
And to ensure Soumya stays healthy, my husband and I will encourage her to imbibe healthy food and exercise habits. We will start having fun physical activities so that the whole family can stay healthy.
In life, our kids will have enough bullies, mean girls and mean bosses to pull them down. They certainly don’t need their own mothers weighing them down with the negative judgments and self-doubts. Atleast I won’t.
More from I for Her: Read how her daughter helped her in getting her confidence back
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