“If I eat all the M&Ms will I be fat like that lady?” the little boy innocently asked as he and his mother stood next to me in the public washroom, washing our hands.
Time stood still.
Usually, I’m quick with a response when a child asks a question about ANYTHING…usually I say something silly, drawing a kid in, making something up and watching their wide-eyed reaction. I LOVE the innocence of children…their need to take the world in…to ask questions…to understand.
But I stood there.
His mother looked at me with disgust and with a snare in her tone said “Yes sweetie, THAT’S why we choose to eat healthy.”
I left the bathroom…different than when I went inside.
I told the two friends I was with and we laughed…me, on the outside a bit more than the inside. I thought of all of the things I SHOULD have said to the little guy like “M&Ms? I got this way from eating kale!” Or to his mother, “At least I can lose weight…you can’t fix that nose of yours!”
All the kind and silly things I would say to her innocent boy…all the hateful and mean things I’d wrongly say back at her. (Because there was really nothing wrong with her nose.)
I thought how sad it is, that every time that four-year-old wants a treat, his mother must say “you can’t have that or you’ll get fat.” How her own issues and insecurities…will pass on to another generation.
I looked in the mirror and wondered how many M&Ms it really took…to get me here.
The little voice in my head that’s no longer the sweet little boys who simply asked a curious question…now mine.
I don’t know what the answer for that mother should have been…he wasn’t being rude…he was just curious. My problem is that he wasn’t equating his curiosity simply to me and asking me a question…even if it WAS about my body…but he was drawing a conclusion to the M&Ms he obviously desired…and their relationship to my weight. His curiosity came from the negative things he’d been told to begin with and had he not been given that information…he may have just seen a woman washing her hands next to him in the bathroom…and asked about where the soap came from, why it came out foamy, what made the water magically come out of the tap or the paper towel dispenser know when to stop…and I would have told him something silly…and he would have thought I was funny and smart and fantastic DESPITE the shape of my body. It’s possible, that if he hadn’t been told any of the negative things to begin with…he may not have noticed my body at all.
Just me. As a person. With feelings.
I need to lose weight. I know that. You know that.
Children need to be taught that everyone is beautiful so they can stop judging themselves…stop judging their own worth…against other people.
I feel a little bad for myself. I feel a little bad for that mother. But I feel really bad for that little guy who has enough garbage in his four-year-old head that he asked that particular question to begin with.
If I had my time back, I’d have told him that M&Ms are fantastic…they come in different shapes, colours and sizes…they’re all a little bit different on the inside but on the outside, they’re really all the same. Every single one of them is absolutely perfect.
Just like me.
And just like him.