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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My Mother-in-Law Calls My Daughter "Fat Girl"

My mother-in-law (who is heavy herself) has this thing about calling the girls in the family nicknames that have to do w/fat. It infuriates me. My daughter is FOUR years old! A few weeks ago she called her fatty. I was FURIOUS & only b/c my husband had just had surgery & we were at the hospital did I not say anything. For starters, I am heavy & she has NEVER said anything like that to me, I assume b/c of respect. My daughter weighs 40 lbs. She's in the 25th percentile for her height & 50th for her weight. The Dr said it's a perfect mix b/c she's big boned so weighing anything less would make her look sickly and to be perfectly honest, she looks fine, she's 4. B/c of my weight, I'm very careful about what we bring home & what she eats only b/c if she makes the right choices now, hopefully she will as she gets older.Anyway, today my mil called her fat girl. I gritted my teeth & waited for my husband to get back in from taking the trash & said, we need to get going so we can get to the park. I asked him the last time to say something, I don't think I should have to b/c it's his mom. He of course doesn't want to upset her but agrees that is no way for his mom to talk to her.He has nieces that are now 17 & 13 & when they were younger, she did the same thing. I can remember when the oldest was 8 & came to stay the weekend w/us & I bought ice cream & pop corn & she said, I'm on a diet & I can't eat that. I thought OMG, her Dr put her on a diet..she was about 30 lbs over weight. So I said, oh I'm sorry, I didn't know that. She said, well Grandma & my mom keep telling me I need to lose weight & Uncle Tim calls me fat girl & I hate it. When I told my husband, he confronted his mom, sister & brother & their reply was - she knows we're only kidding. I do NOT want this to be daughter in 4 yrs, but I know my husband & his mom already have a rocky relationship - how do we talk to her w/o upsetting her?!

WHOA! What a touchy subject. My first reaction is that I would like to have a few words with your mother-in-law, but obviously that's not going to happen. You are wise in knowing that it should be your husband that speaks to her. I think you should be present so that you can hear all that is said.

It's important that she (your mil) understands you are not attacking her. You know that she loves her family and her grandchildren and maybe she isn't aware of the words she is using. Let her know how important it is that she is using words that build up your daughter.

If it's possible bring up the example of your niece and let your mil know that even though they might have been "kidding", your niece took it to heart. Obviously she does not want to be damaging her grandchild's self-esteem, but those words are doing just that.

Even though you didn't ask this question, I would like to say something else. It is very likely that your mother-in-law will not stop using this kind of talk around your daughter. That makes it even that much more important for you to help her have a good body image. Discussing weight (yours or anyone else's) is never a good idea. Kids need to be kids and not learning at an early age that their appearance defines them. It seems as if she is perfectly healthy and that you are helping by bringing good food choices into the home.

Your daughter is blessed to have you for a mom. As hard as it may be, don't let this put a wedge in your relationship with your mother-in-law. You and your husband have the greatest influence on your daughter right now - keep pouring into her!!

Okay, that's my two cents - does anyone else have any advice to offer??


karen said...

Ok, heres my two cents. i would not worry about putting a wedge between my family and my mil. she should not be allowed to say anything she wants just because she is the MIL. your childs self esteem in in danger now. i know because i had a similar situation. my husband refused to say anything to help so we just gradually stopped going around mil as much. hubby goes now more by himself. yes i know this is sad but my children and grandchildren come first.

i know you don't want any conflict in the family but your childs emotional health should come first.

God bless you, i will be praying for you.

she just wants to be said...

I agree with Karen. I say make waves if you have to but you need to protect your daughter. If it means conflict with the MIL, then so be it! I say confront her and soon. I would simply say "I don't want you calling her that, as her mother, I don't believe it is healthy for her." It's direct yet respectful and leaves no room for debate. But that's just me.... good luck.