My daughter’s little friend excitedly stormed through my front door; she had come over to play with my girl and her new Barbie Dream House. She was practically vibrating as she greeted us. She was happy to be here; we were happy to have her.

The girls camped out on the floor playing Barbie Dream House. They returned to my kitchen an hour later for refreshments. As with any new visitor to my home, I asked her what her favorite snack was and what she was hungry for.

My own child rattled off thirty-three different items she felt like eating, but not her. She was quiet and humble at my mentioning of something to eat. She passed on the typical offering of a cheese stick and a fruit juice box. While my child ransacked the pantry for goodies, she sat there with her head bowed down and her eyes fixated on the granite of my kitchen countertops.

I sensed something was off. Why did the mention of food suddenly turn her quiet; the opposite lively girl who’d just beamed with happiness right through my front door?

“Are you feeling okay? Are you just not hungry?” I asked her.

“I’m fine. I need to be careful with what I eat. I’ve gained weight.” she sheepishly responded.

My heart dropped but I didn’t allow my face to react to the shock of her potent words.

I assured her we had healthy snack options and I was willing to make whatever she felt like eating. And then she hit me with it….

“My grandmother called me fat….but she apologized.”

That string of words stung my ears like the sound of a firetruck siren long after it’s passed. My heart sunk and my face became warm. I don’t know what she spoke after that comment fell out of her mouth because all I could hear were those words repeating over and over in my head.

She called me fat…… But, she apologized.

An eight-year-old justifying the actions of a grown adult. An eight-year-old rationalizing disgusting words directed at her; words that she played off as being ‘okay’ with. Her eight-year-old justification didn’t slip by me; it was empty, it was hollow, and her face spoke a million painful words.There was no justification for those words, however, I assume it made her feel better to toss that in at the end. “…but she apologized..” It didn’t make me feel better. It made me angry, incredibly angry.

Her pain showed. Her discomfort around food, our kitchen even, was alarming. It sent a chill down my spine as I sat and watched my seven year old chow down on a bag of cheddar duck crackers and slurp a juice-box in one gulp. 

I watched her. I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t know how to respond. This isn’t my child, this isn’t my place.

But, then I remembered, I don’t care. I don’t care if the words I direct at someone else’s child come from a place of empathy, a place of love. There are times to back off and mind your damn business and there are times to step up. In this situation, I chose the latter.

I composed my anger. I composed myself. I pushed down the urge to unleash the overflowing emotion that was trapped in my brain and the feelings my heart was throwing up. I stepped up.

“Look at me. I want to tell you something.”

Her beautiful hazel eyes met mine and I continued:

“I’m not sure why someone would use that word to describe you. I think that word is hurtful and an awfully mean word to use when directed at anyone, particularly you. I hope you know that you are beautiful; that you are perfect the way God made you. You are wonderful, full of life and I think you are marvelous. I admire your choice to eat healthy snacks but don’t you dare allow the thoughts of one person shape who or what you think you are. There are no negative words to describe someone as special as you, only positive. What she said to you wasn’t nice and I am sure she is sorry, but you, you are fantastic.”

It didn’t feel like my words were enough, because they weren’t. She went on her way and headed home shortly later. I ran errands that evening but her voice, that string of words, played over and over again in my head.

She called me fat…but she apologized.

We make a lot of mistakes as parents. We yell when our small ones don’t listen or follow direction, we drop swear words that their young ears absorb, we are walking mistakes and are constant works in progress. I have yet to meet the perfect parent, however, chastising an eight year old about her weight is nothing short of abhorrent.

I’d rather my young daughter drop the F-Bomb in my presence long before hearing her refer to herself as ‘fat’. We have enough negative influences bouncing through our daily lives in the real-world. We don’t need our littles hearing from the people, ones they trust and love most that they, too, agree with what society tells them at all too early of an age. 

Mothering young girls is tough, they are incredibly perceptive. They hear and see the messages our fucked-up universe sends out every day. They don’t need that crap directed at them while they’re painting their personal canvas as to who and what they feel they are and are not.

I am not the best mother. However, I can tell you the last words you’ll ever hear from my mouth are any references to my child’s weight, shape, or frame. I certainly don’t have it all figured out, however, when my girl asks me: “How do I look, Momma?” My answer is and will always be… “Perfect, inside and out, upside down, top to bottom, you are perfect.” 


Ashley Alteman is known for her love of dinosaurs, ponies wearing sweaters, and overuse of commas. She is an editor’s nightmare. She won a spelling bee in the 8th grade for correctly spelling “carrot” and knew from that moment she was destined to be an amazing journalist, or a sarcastic blogger; she went with the latter. Ashley details her laugh-out-loud parenting and personal fails at You can also find this hot mess fumbling around on Facebook


  1. Wow. Just wow. Spot on writing. My daughter at that age (two years ago) came home and told me her friend just learned from her mother how to stay skinny…. “Just throw up her lunch!” She demonstrated for my daughter in bathroom. I actually called the mother. Hardest thing I ever had to do. I have no idea if that did any good or harm but I just cannot believe how our society has gotten to this point.

  2. This too made my cheeks burn, the blood rush in my ears, and tears well up in my eyes. Good for you and shame on that woman.

  3. Oh, Ashley, this is so heartbreaking- those words will never be undone. They are there, stuck in her head and her heart and her bones and her skin. FAT. I’m glad you said something to her- she needs all the love and positive vibes she can get. I agree with you that this word is tossed around lightly, but it is a hate filled bomb most of the time, and I wish it weren’t so. Poor little nugget. Thanks for putting on your cape and being the defender of little girls’ hearts. So sad.

  4. Thank you for responding that way. I get why it would stick in your head. It’s totally messed up. Sending you big hugs. You did everything you could.

  5. I love this Ashley!! What a beautifully written and heartbreaking post! Your words to that little girl WILL stay with her!

  6. You handled the situation perfectly, Ashley. I hope that your words were able to undo some of the damage that’s been done. Maybe she’ll spend more time around your daughter and your family, I think that you could be a positive role model for her. No child should ever be told that they are fat, not in a society like ours where a walking bag of antlers is the standard women are constantly held to. It’s bullshit.

  7. So not okay! A friend of mine’s son is going through this as his grandfather told him he was fat. 8 years old and already suffering from low self-esteem because of it. I think you responded very well. She needed to hear those words from you. Great post, Ashley.

  8. Oh, I wanted to cry and then slap that Grandma into next week! Thank you, thank you, thank you, for stepping up and saying those beautiful words. She will not forget them! “You is kind, you is beautiful, you is important!” Remember these words from “The Help”?

    Beautiful and heartbreaking post. I love you as a Blunt Mom!! <3 <3 <3

  9. This was heartbreaking. I’m so glad that you chose to step up and say something to that little girl. Hopefully your words stuck with her! <3

  10. Amazing. The world needs more moms like you. I’m sad for that little girl and I hope that’s the last time she is called that word, especially from a family member.

  11. I watch my sister-in-law with sadness as her mother calls her fat in front of her two granddaughters. My SIL constantly complains about her own weight and I have to tell her she looks beautiful and to stop worrying. What I really want to say is SHUT UP. Little girls learn too early about societal pressures. But from family seems irresponsible and so, so wrong? Holy Shit!

    • You are so right, Kristine. I make an effort to not say ‘skinny’ ‘fat’ or any of those words to reference my body or anyone else. KIDS LISTEN!!!

  12. You came from a place of compassion. That to me is a good litmus test if you still wonder ifyou did the right thing. I just wish that the child would see your truth as brighter than the lie she has been told.

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  14. ilirianwanderer Reply

    I can feel how hurt the little child must have felt…that too, coming from her grandma…

    Nice post..

    Thank you for sharing 🙂

  15. Wow wow wow. How on earth anyone can look at a child and spew forth such hatred. Unreal. On the other hand, your words were beautiful and eloquent and I hope that they stay with her long after those others words have been buried.

    thank you for putting aside any feeling of this is not my child and taking her in and giving her such beautiful words. 🙂

    • I know. It was so awful to hear those words drop out of her mouth. It was trapped in my head for days. I hope what I said to her resonated. Thank-you for reading and for your lovely comment <3

  16. I think the thing that saddens me the most is that being called ‘fat’ is seen as the epitome of evil. I think hat just reinforces our perspective of the value of women being skin deep. Yes, it’s important to teach young girls and women not to care what people think and to feel beautiful in their own skin but it is critical for them to learn to see themselves, and others, as complex, interesting, intelligent, capable people. We, as adults, need to change the conversation about fat or thin, to who you are as a whole person and how you treat others rather than what size of jeans your wear.

  17. I can’t tell you how much I disagree with this article. There are perhaps more tactful ways of telling an 8 year old that they need to lay off the cookies than just saying “hey kid, you’re fat”, but you can’t turn a blind eye if they’re becoming overweight either. I know what sort of health problems someone can end up with in later life if childhood gluttony is left unchecked, and telling a child their body is perfect if they’re clearly overweight is just not doing them any favours. Yes, it might sting a bit for them to hear that they need to cut down on their snacks, but for the sake of their health it sometimes needs to be said. Children don’t usually pick up on subtle hints.

    My eldest son eats like a bloody horse, and yes he’s gained weight as a result, which we’re trying to tackle. No sooner has he eaten dinner than he says he’s hungry again and wants to eat and eat and eat, and I just flat out put my foot down and say no. Then all I get is “why? why? why?” and at first I tried the subtle approach but it just does not work. So now I tell him straight that eating that amount of food is not good for your health. Being overweight is not healthy, nor is being underweight. You need to eat the right amount of food so that your body is just the right size. Yes I even tell him he needs to lose a bit of weight in order to keep his body in tip-top healthy condition.

    My daughter also needs to lose some, but she is getting a lot better at controlling her own portions and stopping when she’s full.

    Neither of them have taken it as an insult. I never say it in a way to belittle them or make them feel bad, just in a matter-of-fact informative way, that eating too much causes weight gain, talking about the types of foods that may have caused them to gain and what we can do as a family so that we all end up with normal weights and become healthier.

    Telling a child they’re perfect and shoving a packet of crisps in their hands if they are obviously in need of losing weight, just to spare their feelings, is stupid. Ashley has clearly never had herself or ever known anybody with severe weight related problems. It’s easy to give in to demands of cake and chips, it makes for an easier life on the part of the parent if the child is kept happy, but then you end up with an overweight adult who is in need of bariatric surgery, and then you wish you’d maybe given the kid a carrot stick when they were 8 years old instead of a damned chocolate bar.

    My husband has severe health problems due to his weight, and I live in daily fear that he’s going to have a heart attack and leave me without a husband and my four children without a father. There is no way in hell I am going to let the same thing happen to my children, because yes, death from obesity is REAL.

    If your child were smoking or doing drugs would you just say “it’s okay, go right ahead” ? No? Well glossing over weight issues is the same thing.

    • “You need to eat the right amount of food so that your body is just the right size.”?? UHM, NO. You need a proper diet to have a healthy body. There is no such thing as “just the right size.” And, an eight year old doesn’t do the household grocery shopping- the parent/guardian does. Calling a child FAT isn’t going to solve anything- unless your mission is to tear down that child’s self esteem. If anyone is responsible for an unhealthy diet at that age- it’s the parent, NOT the child.

      • While I think what the grandmother said is despicable, I agree with Natalie. I have one child with a BMI of 30 and one with a BMI of 12. They are teenagers. They eat the same, healthy food in my house–actually, the skinny one makes poorer dietary choices, eating processed meats, red meat etc. They are both athletes and exercise comparably. My heavier child started to gain weight at school, where there were daily birthday party treats and snacks at soccer etc. It was not from food served at home. People are cruel and feel it is acceptable to say things that would NEVER be allowed in another context. The boys were at Trader Joe’s and a woman/stranger approached them and said, “I know which one is going to eat all that food!” It is horrifying. I DO stress being fit, not body size, but it is very challenging, especially given that the same coach will tell one to lose 25 pounds and tell the other to gain 25 pounds. The skinny one gets just as much negative feedback–Kids told him that he looks like he is from Biafra when he had to change jerseys on the field. Is that okay? Every comment is loaded. So please don’t be judgey of parents or kids at any weight. A lot of people are just lucky.

  18. What an incredibly powerful piece. I intend to share it on my Her Royal Thighness page. It is appalling that any adult should measure a child’s worth in that way … and even more appalling that they verbalize it. I cannot begin to tell you how absolutely damaging this is to one’s self esteem. These are the kinds of things that were verbalized to me by the people who supposedly loved me all throughout my childhood. And it has left a lifetime of scars that no therapy, no positive words can undo. I was taught early on that I was damaged. Even in my twenties, I had close family members say things to me like “Why don’t you lose weight, so you can find a husband.” It led to a lifetime of yo-yo dieting (I was drinking Tab at eight) and a lifetime of rejecting my own reflection. I’m glad you tried to assuage those negative words with positive words. You did the right thing. Unfortunately, those kinds of negative messages are so powerful that they tend to deafen one’s ears to any positive. And the media only reinforces the negative words. I am so sad for this little girl. Because the little girl inside me is crying with her.

    • Parri, I am so sorry you had to go through this. It is absolutely heartbreaking that people feel the need to verbalize in such disgusting words—and even worse that some people actually think, in some convoluted, FUCKED UP way that there is nothing wrong with that. Some just have ZERO clue how damaging these words can be to a human being. Ugh. My heart is with you, friend.

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