The meeting is nearly over, when the father of your child says, “He’s got a gut, you know.”
“I remember you said that at the pediatrician’s office,” you say, “and they disagreed with you all three times. They said he was perfect.”
“He’s had a gut for over a year now. I don’t want him to be that fat kid.”
There is so much horror in those two sentences that you can’t quite believe they’ve just been used to describe your child. Who would ever describe a child in such a fashion? But suddenly it makes sense why the child is frequently returned to your house in clothes that are too tight. Why they have put a scale in his bedroom. Why the eight year old talks about calories.
They are shaming him. They are actively shaming him, and here it is admitted to you as though it were considerate parenting. The bully is telling you that the world is full of bullies and he is hard on the child to protect him. That is what you are being told.
“I don’t want him to be that fat kid.”
Your child is not fat, but that and the point don’t reside in the same neighborhood. The point, of course, is that the child has to spend half of his life in a household where cruelty is casual and pointed. Where body image is predetermined. You’ll be whichever shape I decide is fitting. I’ll protect you from your fat self, kid.
After your ears quit ringing. After you hate yourself for how calmly you took the whole, vicious thing. You must evaluate what you know. What do you know? You know that you can’t do anything about other people’s choices. They make their own and for whichever they choose, there will be a reckoning, but that reckoning isn’t yours. You aren’t karma’s agent, love. You are just a witness. You have learned to love harder. To love harder and to speak that love without flinching. You cannot protect your child from the various meannesses he’ll encounter. But you can give him the resources to negotiate them without trauma. To know his worth. His self. His bright, unflinching center. The glorious child you have watched grow into a kind, strong boy. The proof is in the child. The proof is always in the child.