What I told my son when he said, "Mum, you look fat from behind."

My son has said mean things to me before. Children, not knowing any better, often blurt out observations without considering how it will make another person feel.

I remember a young cousin asking me if I had chicken pox during my teen-acne years.

My daughter told my husband his tummy was too big when he was blocking the doorway she was trying to get through.

Then there was this morning when I was racing around getting my three children ready for school and my son Philip, 12 said, “Mum, you look fat from behind”.  He said it in a tone-of-voice not dissimilar to when he says, “Hey Mum, we’re out of chicken soup,” so I didn’t immediately take offence.

However in that split second before I responded to his comment I became aware that what I was about to say would be a teaching moment for him, for his little brother Giovanni, 8 sitting nearby and for my daughter Caterina, 6 who was watching it all unfold.

I didn’t want to defend myself because I didn’t want to teach them that there was anything wrong with being fat. I didn’t want to be anti-health and I didn’t want to dismiss it because if he said it to someone else they might really take offence.

Philip and mum with Sadie on the bed
He said it in a tone-of-voice not dissimilar to when he said, “Mum, we’re out of chicken soup,” so I didn’t immediately take offence.

Here’s what I said and keep in mind I only had a split second to decide how to respond.


“Ouch, Philip, was ‘fat’ the right word to use?”

“Well, you look bigger from behind,” he said.

“Yep, that’s better and yes I do. Did you remember to pack your homework book?”

That was how I chose to handle it. I made sure not to even look at my butt until they had been safely delivered to school. I am trying to raise them all with healthy body image and hopefully delay any angst they feel over how they look, although I know that’s inevitable.

I do confess to taking a long, hard look at myself in the mirror when I got home. I couldn’t help myself. The pants I am wearing are not flattering but I couldn’t find my other ones despite frantically searching through my entire wardrobe very early that morning, before the kids were even up. So I’m wearing the ones that make my butt look big.

The mums of Mamamia confess to the times they have felt like terrible mothers. Post continues after this video.

Acknowledging that my pants aren’t very flattering was all I did though. I didn’t cry, I didn’t get changed, I didn’t decide to skip breakfast. I just checked it out, acknowledged it and moved on. Which is what I was trying to do with the kids when my son dropped that clanger.

He turns 12 in a few week’s time so I suppose I can expect more of this from him. I remember meeting the school bus one afternoon when I was sick, dressed in comfy clothes, hair in a ponytail and no makeup on and him getting off the bus and saying loudly, “Mum, why do you look like that?!?” He was horrified.

“I’m sick,” I said feebly as I picked up discarded hats and school bags strewn across the driveway, feeling sorry for myself. I may have muttered, “Little shit,” a few times but I feel I’d earned that right.

Kids are harsh.

I know the kids at school say things like that about each other and I know Philip is old enough to know it can hurt to hear such things. He is more careful with what he says to his friends but he has no such filter with me.

On the plus side, at least I have someone who will answer me honestly when I’m asking for opinions on outfits and hairstyles, right? Of that I can be sure.

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