Raising confident, kind, genuine children in a world that is constantly tearing down their identity and shaping them according to its own insane standards is quite the struggle, to say the least.
Take it from Julie Venn, a personal trainer and mom-of-two who took her 13-year-old daughter Riley to the doctor’s office for her annual check-up. After asking Riley all the usual questions, the nurse turned to the teenager and patronizingly asked, “Tell me Riley, how can you explain all of this weight you’ve gained?”
The fact that Riley’s mother being in the room did not prevent this particular nurse from posing such a condescending question highlights how normalized it is to shame girls—even at a young and tender age—even in a doctor’s office—due to their size.
Fortunately, Julie stopped that line of questioning REAL quick, and shared her and Riley’s experience on Facebook where it quickly picked up steam.
Julie Venn’s story opens in the examination room of the doctor’s office.
This week I took my 13 year old daughter to get her physical. As we entered the examination room I was excited to see how tall Riley would be as this year she has grown a ton! The coach in me has loved seeing her strength and size finally come along and the mom in me has loved watching this beautiful young girl begin to become a young woman.
Enter first physicians assistant to take her vitals. Height, weight and blood pressure.
She jots them down and leaves the room.
When the N.P. enters the room, she begins to ask Riley questions about her physical activity, sleep pattern, and diet.
Enter Nurse Practitioner. She begins by asking many questions- whats your bedtime? How much exercise do you get? Are you involved in sports? Do you get enough dairy in your diet? She asks her multiple times- anything else going on I should know about? Riley is friendly and answers all honestly and openly.
She explains she will play two sports soon-softball in the fall and basketball in the winter. She tells her she goes to bed around 10:30pm and doesn’t have trouble sleeping. The NP presses her little on the sports participation sort of insinuating she will have trouble balancing that with school but Riley seems unaffected.
The questions then turn to mental health, school, and the teen’s menstrual cycle.
She then asks her- How was school for you this last year? Riley again with complete honesty says- It was actually very difficult for me. There was a lot of drama and I struggled. The NP says that is pretty typical for 7th grade and moves on. She asks about getting her period and if it is regular. Riley explains she has gotten it but it has not been with regularity yet.
All the sudden, seemingly without provocation, the nurse pops that gratuitous and honestly rude question:
The NP then looks down at her computer, then back up at Riley’s face and says to my 13 year old daughter- “Tell me RILEY, HOW CAN YOU EXPLAIN ALL OF THIS WEIGHT YOU’VE GAINED?”
Unsurprisingly, Riley immediately becomes upset.
My daughter is speechless and her eyes begin to glass over. I am speechless and the NP goes on to explain to her that given what her previous weight was last year- the numbers just don’t correlate with her current height. Has she been eating junk food or has her activity level changed.
Also unsurprisingly, Julie went off.
I LOST MY MIND. I had a literal, physical reaction. I put my hand up and said “STOP! You need to stop talking to my daughter about her weight. She is 13, she is strong. She is healthy and she is PERFECT. You need to move on!”
The nurse expresses surprise but moves on with her line of questioning. Afterwards, she asks Julie about why she had reacted in that way.
Her response was truly perfect.
NP seems surprised at my reaction and doesn’t say much. She continues with her exam. As she finishes she asks me to follow her because she has a question to ask me.
I follow her into an adjoining room out of earshot of my daughter and she asks me why I had that reaction to her.
I explained in no uncertain terms that she was out of line in the way she dealt with my daughter. Our girls need to be empowered and supported and celebrated. They already have to compare themselves to the ridiculous social media bullshit standards. They are flooded with images of perfection via tv, youtube, FB, Instagram and Snapchat. Their whole freaking lives have a filter on them!!
I hammer home the importance of eating healthy, exercising and of course sports because we are sporty people but my god! Kids eat junk food! Kids sit around watching Netflix! Kids get heavier, lighter, taller, wider! ITS NORMAL!
Our young ladies need a break! If my child has a problem or is OVERWEIGHT than a doctor needs to talk to ME- not my daughter.
The nurse still doesn’t comprehend the point Julie is trying to make, and even defends her position.
This NP actually went on to defend herself by saying she tells the kids because they have control over their food and exercise.
My response – LAST I CHECKED MAAM I DO THE GROCERY SHOPPING and the meal preparation and the extracurricular scheduling for my children. She’s 13!
She responded that some kids have their own “pocket money” and use it for junk. WTF. SO- we left the office and won’t be back.
The reason I am sharing this is because it is dangerous. Riley’s response when we left was “Mom, this is why kids have anorexia or feel like they want to hurt themselves.” She is exactly right!
Julie then shares what the nurse could (and should!) have instead said to Riley, and to all the other young ladies she examines:
Hey NP! Here’s what you COULD have said to my daughter and all of the beautiful young ladies you impact-
“Hey kiddo. Let me tell you how exciting this time of your life is. I see you have started to grow into being a strong young woman and that is awesome! Know that some girls gain weight, some lose weight, some struggle with acne, some feel insecure but remember this- YOU ARE PERFECT just the way you are. As you mature you will be responsible for more things that pertain to your body- hygiene, activity, menstruation, exercise and healthy eating. This is just the beginning of a long, confusing, sometimes scary road to becoming a woman but it is worth it!
Julie Venn’s Facebook post:
People who saw Julie’s post on Facebook praised the mom for the way she stood up for her daughter.
If only ALL kids had a mom like Julie Venn, the entire would be a much better place.