The other day, I was out for a walk with my one-year-old when a neighbor passed us on the sidewalk. “Oh, she’s so cute and fat!” she exclaimed. We chatted a bit, but I was suppressing the irritation I felt rising up inside of me. It’s true that my baby is chubby, as toddlers should be, but chunkier than most? Not at all. At her last doctor’s appointment she was only in the 5th percentile for weight.
When I told my husband about this, he pointed out that our neighbor has a way of saying tactless things she doesn’t usually mean to be unkind.
But it was still bothering me the next day, so I sat down and wrote in my journal about the experience. When I read what I wrote, I realized that the real reason I was irritated was because I want to shield my baby from the insulting things people said to me as a child. Now that she’s one, she understands what people around her are saying and I don’t want her to develop a complex.
Then I had an epiphany: it’s MY reaction to these comments that largely impacts my baby, not the comments themselves. By stewing in that moment, I was conveying all kinds of negative emotions to my child and shaping her outlook on how to handle the same type of situation down the road.
When we ran into the same neighbor at the supermarket, I took a deep breath, smiled, and said to my little girl, “Look, there’s Sue!”
My daughter kicked her little bubble feet, punched a fist in the air, and said, “Cute!”
I hope that she always remembers the positive things more.
P.S. Have people said rude things to your kids? How do you handle it? Is it a “Don’t sweat the small stuff” kind of thing?