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.
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.
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.