• Jennifer

    Oh, I love this. I just had a baby girl in September and I feel so much more responsibility over her than I do her brother. A lot of it having to do with building her confidence in herself, her appearance whatever it may be, and protecting her from the meanness in the world that seems to target girls. I just hope when the time comes I can be as encouraging and composed as you!

  • HeatherArmstrong

    Thank you. As much as I thought I was prepared for that conversation, her question did almost knock me over. Like, oh my god it’s happening NOW. I knew I had to be careful.

  • RileysMom

    I have told my daughter (who turned 3 last months) that she is beautiful so many times that now she says it wears her out. :) When we talk about what makes her beautiful, we focus on both internal and external beauty.

  • RileysMom

    Ugh, typo! * Last month

  • http://twitter.com/lemonslush Emily R.

    I wish I had heard beautiful things like that when I was a child. If I ever have one of my own, they’re definitely going to get an earful. :)

  • Angie

    Are there 10 candles on that cake?

  • Sara

    One to grow on?

  • Lauren3

    Love this, Heather.

  • http://twitter.com/camiankitchens Camian

    Oh jeez, thanks for making me cry.

  • Sara

    Cried. Baaaaah!

  • Dawn @thedalaimama

    You couldn’t have answered that question better. Way to go.

  • G!

    I have been shamed so many times for being fat, that even knowing how kind you are, as a thin person I was afraid that the punchline was going to be that Leta didn’t need to worry about getting fat, building upon the assumption that fat is the evil. I was bullied for the opposite of looking like a skeleton – to your point, everbody different has to pay the price. Thanks for your gorgeous answers to your daughter and this post.

  • http://twitter.com/nicholee Nichole

    I held it together until “I’ll get you a bigger spoon.” That’s the best thing a mother can do, I think. Be there, ready to get a bigger spoon.

  • http://www.facebook.com/heather.degris Heather Walz Degris

    I tell both my kids every night when I tuck them in “you are my favorite boy” and “you are my favorite girl”. They then tell me I am their favorite girl too :)
    I remember Dr. Phil saying he told both his boys similar things before bed each night too. I think it was something like, out of all the kids in the whole wide world, how did I get so lucky to get you for my own?

  • http://twitter.com/ellehughey you never know who

    I’m scared to have children because of these kinds of conversations. With my luck, I’d have triplet girls on the first go…

  • Heather

    Beautiful!

  • http://twitter.com/workingmommemos Katie

    This is excellent. I have struggled to never make commentary on my childrens’ bodies in any negative way, even if I’m saying it as a positive (i.e. “Oh look at your adorable little pudge!” to my almost-2 year old daughter who still has the sweetest, most poke-able baby belly in the world). I will not allow anyone to talk about her thigh “rolls”. I will not allow anyone to joke about the way that my 3 year old son’s knees point slightly inward. I will not do it myself, and I simply will not allow it from anyone else. Because I have no idea when children begin internalizing those messages. I am sure it’s years before anyone realizes it. And not only will I not comment on my childrens’ bodies as “pudgy”, “skinny” or otherwise, I am doing everything I can to stop commenting on my own body. I’ve been engaged in a lifelong battle with self-hatred. I’ve been thinner and I’ve been heavier. (I love food, what can I say?) And my mom, as long as I can remember, has been obsessed with her body and her weight. And I refuse to do that to my daughter. Even if I’m not happy with my body, I’m going to keep it to myself. And hopefully one day, when I’ve gotten used to not vocalizing just how much I hate my “fat” body, I’ll actually stop hating it every second of every day.

  • Becky

    That was beautiful. You are a truly loving Mom.

  • Valeta

    I read this while nursing my 4th child. I cried. My 9 year old son has said similar things. My 5 year old daughter was worried when she got her first pair of glasses. She said, “What if they all think I look weird.” I hugged her and told her I would be weird with her. I always tell my kids they are my favorite whatever age they are. You are my favorite 9 year old. You are my favorite 5 year old.

  • http://twitter.com/amandarants Amanda J. Pittman

    I don’t have any children, but I do have two nieces. One is nine and also starting to become aware of her body. Her mom and I have both had body issues and I hope those don’t get passed down. Thank you so much discussing that here.

  • http://twitter.com/ruthiesaxon ruth ann

    I just absolutely cried at this one. Body image is ridiculous. As a recovering “fat” child, you just never get over it. My mom put me on WW in 5th grade! I cannot imagine having a child and having to protect them from that. What an awesome way to approach a horrible subject. GO HEATHER.

  • http://kristanhoffman.com/ Kristan

    Aaaaand now I’m crying.

    Thank you, Heather. For Leta, for this letter, for what you’re trying to do as a mother and as a writer. <3

  • Johannes

    Just wondering why are there 10 candles? I know that seems shallow given the content of your writings; which are very grounded and maternal. There are very few who are not made fun of, shamed, bullied, ridiculed, castigated and frowned upon. This is the nature of homo sapiens. I tried to protect my kids from all that too. We have to live on the planet with 6 billion other people, 5 billion of whom do not have mothers like us. It’s never easy wether you’re bony, fat, short, tall, freckled, bespectled, red haired, not the local majority flavor etc. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Ultimately I told my kids everyone has a different favorite color; no one is wrong.

  • kimspangrude

    But, but, but……

    But she sounds very bright – and obviously an influential person in her life – teacher, health care provider, grandparent? – talked to her or around her about the problems with eating too much cereal. In my narrowly developed opinion (I am a health care provider), I know that for certain people of certain age and predisposed conditions, eating too much cereal could be bad for your health and could contribute to obesity. Is that what she was asking?

    I guess I am just saying that an answer could have been more nuanced, because, althought she is only 9, she sounds like she is a very smart, intuitive and inquisitive 9. Only you are the judge of that.

    Maybe something like “Yes, eating too much cereal could be unhealthy for certain people – only a small percentage of people – but it is not unhealthy for you BECAUSE you are young, healthy, and you are not in that small percentage for whom it could be unhealthy.” I find with my grandkids, sometimes just saying “you are perfect the way you are” is enough for some of them – that is all they need or want to hear. For some of them, though, it is not enough to tell them that. Some of them are more “scientific-minded”, secure in who they are, and they want a bit more detail. These ones are more accepting of the shades of grey, and are able to understand that not all answers are “yes” or “no”. It just depends on the individual child.

  • http://twitter.com/GryphonMage Gryph

    You always need one to grow on.

  • Andrea

    My daughter is ten months. In the same week, we were told both ‘she’s underweight’ and ‘she’s gaining weight too fast’. It starts so young, and I’m terrified. I just want to run around behind her with a baseball bat and threaten anyway one dares to tell her she shouldn’t be who she is. That seems much easier then constantly dealing with the aftermath of the judgmental conga line telling my baby she’s only as good as her fat cell count.

  • PandoraHasABox

    Hard to believe that Leta is nine. Thanks for sharing the ride that is parenting. You’ve got two good kids.

  • JenG

    Lovely post — my daughter turns 9 in April and we’ve been having similar conversations.

  • issascrazyworld

    Happy birthday to your amazing girl.

    Sigh. Tween years come with so much more parenting that I’d ever of though. Big things instead of the things we think are big when they are three. Like why they can’t have Bratz dolls or lollipops for dinner. Or will they ever ever ever stop watching that one flipping movie. It’s neat though too. I’m liking it so far. Most of the time and I hope you will too.

    We’ve been through the fat thing many times, in many forms over the last few years. It kills me that they think about it this young. For what it’s worth, I think you handled it really well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/RavenMHart William Armstrong Black

    It’s not that often that I read such love.

  • Kimberly

    Made me tear right up. You are a good mom.

  • http://twitter.com/creaves creaves

    Thanks for making me cry again, jerk!

    (No really though, you’re an incredible mother and I wish mine had taken the time to say anything half that lovely to me. No wonder your kids are so amazing!)

  • Timmys mom

    One of my earliest memories was of my mother drying me off after a bath and pointing to those ugly lines on my six year old body with a disgusted look on her face while telling me I was already getting stretch marks. She said it happens when you get fat. The dirty word always came with that disgusted look and emphasis on the ‘f.’ My daughter was raised not to judge anyone by their size or color or looks. I am grateful for you, Heather, and everyone else who does the same.

  • christina

    I have to say that I love this kinder, gentler Dooce. You done good as a mama.

  • http://twitter.com/fishsticked John Bray

    Damn. You’re a fantastic writer. This was great. The cruelty of children may never change, but you did a fantastic job knocking it back

  • Marilyn

    I can’t believe people have actually counted the candles.. I do wish I could have been as wise as you when my daughter was younger. But when she was 9 my marriage broke down (there was another woman involved) and I didn’t handle it at all well. My poor daughter. ‘Kids are resilient’ people told me over and over again. But they really aren’t. Somehow she has grown up to be a wise, kind and caring woman and I’m so proud of her. She’s now in her thirties and she’s taught me so much. About so much. Parents have such a big responsibility and yet children don’t come with an instruction manual. Who we get as parents is just pot luck. Your girls hit the jackpot with both of theirs, in my humble opinion.

  • melisa ann

    owhh I just loveeee your Dear Leta posts. I think you’re doing an AMAZING job with your girls. :D And her ballerina shirt in the first pic is gorgeous! Does it come in an adult size? tee hee.

  • http://www.growingupinoz.com/ Joanna

    I have two daughters and this made my cry. Thank you for this. Oh it was good for my momma soul.

  • Annalyn

    She is a beautiful girl! I was 11 when I became self conscious of my figure. It’s so hard when you’re that age. I was never overweight or even close to it (in fact I’ve been underweight in the past) but I felt fat anyways. Still do. It’s this terribly ingrained thought. I hope she never feels that way. I hope if I ever have daughters I can raise them to love their own bodies.

  • Tom

    When I was growing up, at around that age, maybe a little older, I remember asking my mom whether looks mattered. Like would she marry some large green blob? Did it really not matter a little bit? To her credit (like you), she persisted that no looks didn’t matter and, yes, she would. If this blob had an enjoyable personality and there was good conversation and ideas, etc. That was the end of that and it stayed with me.

    Decades later though, I wonder if one can’t still get good at being who one is. That’s the only thing I would’ve added to a 10-year-old me. It doesn’t matter what you look like. But get good at being who you are, whatever that is, evolving your priorities (none of which should be simply based on how you look) as you grow.

  • MG

    Yeah, I guess she needs that healthy dose of shame, right kim?

  • KatR

    Right. The answer to a slender 9 year old who is a picky eater is a lecture on why “some people” shouldn’t eat two bowls of cereal.

  • jenny

    Thanks Heather for making this first time pregnant mother cry alligator tears into her cereal this morning. Beautiful post

  • Necole Kell

    My nine year old told me that she got hit in the nuts yesterday. I had to explain to her that girls do not have nuts which almost lead to a conversation I am not ready to discuss yet. My husband just sat there and said “Yep, I have nothing to say”.

  • oddFrogg

    Awww…that’s really beautiful. Happy Birthday Miss Leta!

  • Lisa

    I don’t have a daughter. But if it ever comes to pass that I do, I want to remember this. I want to remember that this is how you work, each day, to raise a daughter that will be healthy in mind, body, and spirit. This is how it’s done right.

  • Tiff

    I almost held it together. But at 35 weeks pregnant with my first, a little girl, I just couldn’t help the tears. This is so perfectly, perfect. Thank you.

  • Dee

    Nice post. If you let her eat cereal for dinner, I hope you are at least giving her a good multivitamin every day? I tell my son he is lucky to get a choice: broccoli [YUCK] or a vitamin. He is very healthy.

  • michelle

    like. like this post a lot. :) our daughter’s share the exact birthday. happy birthday to leta. thanks for sharing.

  • http://twitter.com/jenwilsonca Jen Wilson

    She is blessed to have you for a mom.