Rachel: Momma, what are you having?
Me: I'm having the last of my soda. And then I'm not having any more soda ever again.
Nicholas: Because it's not healthy.
Me: Yep. Because soda is unhealthy and gross and it's making me fat.
Ben: ??? You're not fat.
Me: Well I feel gross and fat.
Ben: ?!?! But you're not gross and fat.
And the look on his face was one I couldn't capture on film....and I don't have words to describe it. But it stopped me.
Thank you, my boy. Thank you for reminding me how that feels....how it feels when someone you love is engaged in self-trash-talk.
Because what, really, is the purpose? Do I want him to agree?
"Yeah, Mommy. You really ARE fat and gross."
Do I want him to learn first-hand about the joys of low self esteem?
"Mom, I don't think I should have any more cookies. I'm getting really fat and gross."
Would I ever call my kids fat and gross? No? Would I say that to my husband? Or a sibling, friend, or total stranger? No. Then why would I say that about their mother?
He and his siblings didn't gain any nutritional insight from the conversation. Handled differently, they might have learned how much it stinks to have a bad habit and how nail-bitingly hard it can be to make a change for the better. I might have used it as an example of why I'm so vigilant about the things they eat. I might have reinforced the idea that it's good to start healthy habits now...instead of waiting until they are overweight adults. I could have told them how Daddy was a smoker when I met him, but he found the strength to quit 16 years ago and how inspired I am by that. I might have explained to them how I want to be a runner, but my body isn't getting the right kind of fuel. They could have learned that being a healthy person means making the right choices...even if they're tough choices. They could have learned about moderation.
Instead they learned that Mommy sometimes says things that are hurtful and untrue...about herself.
And if I could build a time machine and relive the moment, my answer would be something like this:
"I'm going to stop drinking soda because it's unhealthy. It will cause cavities and diabetes and extra weight. I'm going to stop because it's the right thing to do for my health."
And I promise, my son, to think twice before I bad-mouth your mother ever again.