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"I try very hard not to judge other parents. But at times like this, it's impossible."

What I wanted to say to the mother who fat-shamed her daughter.

I took my kids on a farm stay last weekend. It was idyllic, like something from the movie Babe. There were newborn lambs just hours old wobbling on their spindly legs. There was a two-week old calf called Patches who sucked my three-year old daughter’s fingers in anticipation of his bottle of baby-cow formula.

My three kids rode horses and chased ducks and shuddered at how cruel nature can be when a chicken ate the newly laid egg of another hen. And then they saw another cruelty.

A mother-of-four fat shaming her 11-year old daughter in front of several dozen stunned families. I don’t like to judge other mums. I know we all do it tough at times. We all struggle to conform to the ideal of the perfect mother. We all have days when we say things we regret.

And on those days we don’t need the eyes of another mother shaking ever so slightly at us. We don’t need social media tutting and criticizing. Often we just need support, a tender smile, a helping hand. But this time was different.

But.

"'You’re going to flatten it,' she cried. 'Be careful you don’t hurt the pony.'”

The daughter was riding a small Shetland pony at the time. The girl was big for her age and was obviously developing a teenage body years before her mind was ready. She was chubby, sure. And she was aware of it.

She pulled at her too-tight clothes and fiddled with her uncomfortable jeans that dug into her protruding stomach. Her already developed sense of apprehension about her body radiated with every move. When her time came to ride a pony she was placed on a small grey Shetland – her feet dangled not far from the ground.

No one really noticed the awkward disparity until they heard the cackling. Her mother laughed. She heckled. She jeered. “Watch out you don’t kill the bloody horse” she yelled across the paddock. “You’re going to flatten it,” she cried. “Be careful you don’t hurt the pony.”

She didn’t see her daughter’s face. She didn’t feel her daughter’s humiliation. I don’t claim to understand why she thought it was okay. I could barely watch myself. I am not sure how her mother didn’t notice. She sat with other-Mum friends and pointed and watched.

“'You laughed at me.' She ran off. I saw her mother approach her and offer her a bag of chips to stop the tears."

When the young girl finished her ride she was sweating, she was distraught. She turned to her mother and told her she was mean. “You laughed at me.” She ran off.

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I saw her mother approach her and offer her a bag of chips to stop the tears.

“Oh toughen up. I didn’t mean it.” Her daughter took them and stood, tears falling down her face refusing to talk to her. Refusing to make eye contact. “I was only having a laugh. You know I didn’t mean it. It was funny.”

Funny.

I wish I had spoken up. I wish I HAD judged. I wish I HAD interfered in someone else’s business. But I stayed quiet as an 11-year old girl cried and shuddered and a lifetime of body image issues was imprinted in her developing awareness.

You aren’t meant to mock your daughter. You aren’t’ meant to humiliate and denigrate. Support her, believe in her, encourage her, validate her.

Whatever you went through, I wanted to say, to make you like this, overcome it. Stop the cycle of self-loathing before it floods through another generation. She obviously loved her daughter enough to take her out to experience beautiful spring day. She obviously loved her enough to pack her snacks, and take her photo in front of the horses.

It wasn’t a lack of love that made her say those things. It was a lack of awareness, I wanted the young girl to stand up to her mother. To tell her it was not right. I wanted to hear the girl say how much she loved riding the horse and how her mother’s words had ruined the day for her.

I wanted the girl to grab the words and throw them back at her before they became an imprint for her own self-loathing. But as the tears flowed down her face and as she accepted her mother’s peace offering of chips I knew the damage had been done.

I knew the cycle was already in place. So yes I judged, but I didn’t act and now I regret it.

Have you been in a situation where you wished you had spoken up and didn’t?

Like this? Try these:

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Most importantly, they come because they want to hear personal stories of parenting directly from other mothers, without fear of judgement.

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