Through huge tears, our middle child, not even 8 years old yet, cried, "Mommy, I'm not wearing that jacket to school. It makes me look fat."
She's in second grade. Not a senior in high school. And she has already been called fat. Actually, that happened in first grade, and she's carried this wound for a year now.
A wound we didn't know existed until this morning before school. The floodgates opened when she told us. Apparently a "friend" told her she looked fat at school last year.
Thankfully, I have an amazingly intuitive wife who stopped everything she was doing to get to the heart of this one. At the risk of being overreactive, we know the way our daughter thinks, talks about and views her body will shape a great deal about the rest of her life.
Good or bad. Good and bad, most likely.
Brooke leaned right into this tough conversation. I was blown away by the tenderness, truth and grace she dished out in those few critical minutes before school. It wasn't superficial, "You're not fat, honey"-type stuff; rather, she offered bold, freeing reminders of our girl's true beauty.
On our bed that morning, while our daughter struggled to put herself back together, Brooke shared these four points, all reminders of things she's heard since she was a little girl.
1. Your beauty is internal. Rowan is a strikingly physically beautiful little girl. Huge hazel eyes, thick curly hair, a contagious smile. But more than that -- my goodness, so much more than that -- she has the biggest heart this side of the Mississippi. Her heart is what makes her beautiful, not her looks.
2. You will be hurt. Most of the time, people mean well. But there are hurtful, jealous, insensitive, insecure people out there, too. People who take joy (misplaced, clearly) in hurting someone else. It's OK not to be buddy-buddy with those kinds of people. Pursue people who protect you and are proud to be your friend. And when someone hurts you, know they may have tough stuff going on in their own lives.
3. You aren't defined by your body. Culture will try and tell you that you must have certain curves in certain places to be beautiful. That you should tweak, alter, change anything that doesn't align with that view of beauty. But your body doesn't define you -- you were created for much more than that. An identity that can't be shaken or stolen from you.
4. We love you regardless. Rowan is not fat, but it was beautiful to hear Brooke say over and over, "Even if you were fat, or thin, or anything else in the whole world, it doesn't change the way we love you." And true friends won't care about that, either.
This morning will happen again. Maybe in a week; maybe in a year. She'll be told to believe she's too fat, too thin, too nerdy, too dumb, too whatever.
But with a tear-stained shirt, she got in the car with four reminders and tools to fight with, in case the lies came again today.