Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Yolanda Foster THINKS she is doing her 17-year-old daughter Gigi Hadid a favor by encouraging her to lose weight. As a model, Gigi does need to stay thin. But to point out that Paris and Milan like their girls "on the skinny side" and that Gigi will need to diet is just asking for trouble.
Obviously, Foster and Hadid live in a world the rest of us only visit on TV. Most teens aren't dealing with modeling contracts and the aesthetic tastes of Paris and Milan. Except that we are. Fashion and advertising informs our sense of selves in every way and every skinny girl on a billboard encourages our daughters to lose weight. Just like Gigi.
So the last thing any daughter needs is her mom jumping on the bandwagon.
As a mom of a daughter, I get it. Just the other day, I was shopping with a friend who mentioned her daughter's growing obsession with beauty. Her daughter is 5. And while I understood the sentiment, I was also alarmed by the way the mom said it. It was like she took pride in her daughter's beauty. It was like SHE cared about her daughter's beauty more than her daughter did. It's real and I would bet in 10 years, that mother won't even realize why her daughter is so caught up in beauty.
We are that powerful.
Many, many moms live vicariously through their daughters and inadvertently project their own neuroses onto these young people. I remember my own mother just giving me a look. One look. From there, I became bulimic.
I know my mom never meant to project that to me. But I also know she took enormous pride in being one of the "skinny moms." I somehow picked up the message -- from her and other moms' comments -- that being a "skinny mom" or "skinny" in general was the goal.
Now I find myself a mom of a 5-year-old daughter who listens to EVERY word I say. Even when I think she is doing something else, those little ears are like sponges, absorbing it all.
I have also been feeling kind of bad about myself lately. I have been on my own with the kids and not working out like I used to and I have put on a few pounds. My size fours are feeling tight and my desire to never talk about weight in front of my kid has started to get challenged.
The other day I told my husband how gross and fat I was and then saw her out of the corner of my eye. "You are not fat, mommy!" she said. Ouch. The guilt.
Later that night she turned to her brother, pulled up her shirt, and said: "Look at my fat belly!" Coincidence? Maybe. But also maybe not. She is looking to me, just like I looked to my mom, for her female identity. Everything about how she feels about her looks is related to how I feel about mine and what I say to her.
It's a big, big job and it's easy to slip up. No one can blame a mom for doing so. I am sure Foster believes in her heart that she is doing her daughter a great service by being honest and teaching her. Maybe she is. But maybe she's not.
Maybe her mom could say: "You got a great modeling contract. Eat what you want. Enjoy your life. You are young and beautiful. If Paris and Milan don't want you, they can go to hell."
Her daughter might not listen overtly. But somewhere inside, she might hear her. And it might make all the difference.
Do you watch what you say about weight in front of your daughter?
Image via puuikibeach/Flickr