Dear Mama of the 10-Year-Old Girl Wearing Spanx,
Let me first say that your daughter looks beautiful today. She’s 10 years old and I loved seeing her walk excitedly across the stage at her awards ceremony. I know you are proud of how hard she’s worked and that her achievements were recognized publicly—as you should be.
What I’m going to say next you may not like much, but I’m going to say it with love: as excited as I was to see your daughter be recognized today, I am equally grieved that she is clearly wearing shapewear under her dress. Not only can I see it through the dress, I saw you helping her into it in the bathroom before the ceremony. And to be honest, it shook me.
Now I know you, and I know your daughter, and I doubt that she requested that you put her in Tween Spanx today. This should have been a super-special day for your girl; she was recognized by her teachers and her peers because of her sweet character and hard work—not because of the way she looks. Ten-year-old girls shouldn’t know what shapewear IS, let alone be wearing it. But your daughter isn’t dumb, and now that you’ve made her wear it today, she knows what it is and what it’s for. And I’m pretty sure she’s got the message about what you think about her body loud and clear.
And that breaks my heart.
I know you’re body-conscious; what 30-something mom isn’t? Right or wrong, that’s “normal” for me and for you—but worrying about your daughter’s appearance so much that you have her wearing Spanx For Tweens? That’s not normal, and it’s not okay. I’m fairly sure your daughter is bearing more than just the temporary marks that shapewear leaves on our bellies as it compresses—I’m betting she’s surely got permanent marks on her fragile self-esteem.
My friend Heather writes an amazing blog where she is very open about her body image struggle. As the mother of a daughter she has worked especially hard to have a healthy body image as an adult and not pass her insecurities on to her girl. This is one of my favorite wise quotes from her on the subject, and I pray you take it to heart.
“The thing that will drive our girls to body image issues is not their bodies -it’s the moms who are communicating to them that their bodies aren’t enough -that they don’t meet the standard – and that love will only come to them if they look a certain way. The biggest danger to our girls in the body image arena is often the mom – and what her heart believes. If we tell our daughters that their beauty is deeper – but then put them in shape wear – we negate our own words.”
I meant what I said when I said your daughter is beautiful—she’s adorable and I love that she still looks like a little girl. She’s right on the cusp of starting to look like a teen, a fleeting moment in time when she’s the best of both worlds at once. Yes, she is a little heavier than most of her peers. But she’s tall, and strong, and at ten years old she is hardly done growing. I wish you’d given her the chance to run and move and be free like the girl she is today, to feel beautiful in her dress instead of uncomfortable in her shape wear, to feel like HER, to feel good in her own skin.
Mama, middle school is looming and her peers will be tough enough on her (if she’s like most girls, unless she takes charge and becomes the mean one). She doesn’t need you telling her that she’s not good enough as she is now. Because that’s what you did when you made her wear shape wear today. You told her that her body isn’t good enough on it’s own, that it needs help to be show-worthy. You told her at age ten—TEN!—that she’s not meeting your standard of beauty. You told her she’s not good enough for her mom’s approval on her own, and friend? If her mama doesn’t like her JUST the way she is, why in the WORLD would she believe that anyone else will?
Listen, lovely lady. I am not here to shame you. I’ve made plenty of mistakes as a parent and I’ve had to correct my course many times. So today, I’m asking you to change your course on this. You can’t take this back, but you CAN make it right. Take your darling daughter aside. Tell her that you are sorry, that you were wrong, that she looks strong and lovely just the way she is. Talk to her about the unrealistic beauty standards our society has for women, and tell her what really matters is that she is healthy, hard working, and kind to others. Tell her to be thankful for strong legs that carry her wherever she needs to go, for beautiful eyes that see the world around her, for hands that can work and care and love. And most importantly, tell her that she was created by God in His image and that she is beautiful just as He made her. Show her that her identity is in the love of her Creator, not in her dress size.
Buy her a beautiful dress (or whatever SHE wants!) that fits well and feels comfortable. Make a day of it. Take her to do something she loves and that makes her feel loved by you.
And show her this video by volleyball star Gabrielle Reece and her 12-year-old daughter. Blow her mind with two amazing role models who are happy to be BIG AND STRONG.
And if you are really concerned about her weight as it pertains to her health, get healthy with her. Walk together, cook together, make good choices together.
You can build back up what you started to tear down with those Junior Spanx the other day, mama. And I will cheer you on as you do it. But, please, do it soon…your little girl will dwell more and more on her self image with each passing day.
You can do it, mama! I’m cheering for both of you.