This is a picture of my four-year old grandniece after her mother agreed to let her pick out her outfit for the day.
This is a picture of my grandniece after her mother redressed her.
The face says it all, doesn’t it? I was trying to dress my spirit and I got shut down.
What I love most about the first photo is how fearless and free she looked, with a little Beyonce attitude to boot. She knew she rocked and no one was going to tell her different.
Like her mother, Queen Latifah and Melissa McCarthy, she is a big girl with a big personality whose smile makes me happier than I can say.
She will be tall and sturdy, and the proud owner of a body she will always have to work at.
She will also be teased or judged by those who wave off the genetic roulette that a lot of babies in our bloodline were born hefty too and stayed that way; and those who could care less that she has a freakish interest in my kale chips, seaweed snacks and apples, climbing stairs and running zoo trails.
She is never tired.
I’m not blind though. Sometimes I spy her towering over other kids her age and the scene seems sort of Shrekish. I know she eats too much convenience food, comforts herself with snacks and has a sweet tooth she cannot get away with.
Still, I already I want to tell people fixated on her size to leave her alone or love her through this; she’s a little girl.
Since I was a skinny kid with a high metabolism I wish I had now I don’t know my grandniece’s struggle. My daughter was a big baby too, but quickly lost her girth when her limbs grew and I brainwashed her into thinking an active, healthy life was her only choice.
There will always be doubts in people’s minds about whether my grandniece, the baby of our next generation, eats too much or moves too little. At a recent well-child checkup, even her doctor lectured her mother (to tears) about the health consequences of childhood obesity and referred her to a dietician. Sure, he could have been softer, but when a child is borderline diabetic and has related issues, the conversation is due.
But, I worried about whether being labeled big would crumble her self-esteem as her mother works to teach her healthier eating and exercise habits while she learns herself.
It’s so hard to love yourself after you clear single digits. This is no lie. You might love your hair or your eyes or your voice or sense of style, but the pure love affair with your very essence comes early and it does not check your dress size.
Unfortunately, public perception can turn you against yourself in a heartbeat and that concerns me.
I want my grandniece healthy, and, too, no matter her size, full enough of herself that body shaming, anorexia, bulimia, snake-oil diets and the media’s projection of what a “beautiful body” looks like never touch her.
From the looks of things, though, her body confidence is already more right-sized than many grown women, so I imagine she’ll be just fine.