Perhaps you have heard this viral story about the Fargo woman who called a local radio station and announced her intention to hand out letters instead of candy to those children who she deems to be “moderately obese”. I’m not sure what gave this woman the idea that it was her duty to assess the general health of every child who comes trick-or-treating to her house this year, nor do I know what sort of education she has that makes her think she is qualified to make that determination based on a few seconds looking at a child in his/her costume. The thing is, it doesn’t matter, because no matter what her education might be, she has no right to pass judgment on children or their parents. I had every intention of writing a reply to “Cheryl” outlining the dangers in her plan, and suggesting some genuinely helpful things she could do instead if she really wanted to encourage children to be healthy.
Before I could even compose the rebuttal in my mind, my dear friend Melissa posted an open reply to this woman on Facebook. I’d like to share that reply here for you (with permission from the author):
An Open Letter to “Cheryl” the fat-shaming candy police
I am a local Fargo/Moorhead area resident. I would like to take a moment to comment on the note that you intend to put in the Halloween bags and buckets of the “moderately obese” children who cross your doorstep tomorrow evening. You speak about the “village” who has to watch out for the kids of this community.
First of all, I don’t need you to parent my child or instruct me on how to parent him. His father and I have it covered. In addition, we have our own little “village” who provides backup. You are not a part of that village, so therefore, gently, DON’T HELP.
My son is 8 years old. He is a 2nd grader who enjoys many activities. He is an active, healthy, and, yes, bigger kid than a lot of kids his age (by standard height and weight charts). His father and I are responsible parents, we keep track of his eating habits, make sure he has exercise and we communicate with his pediatrician to keep an eye on his growth curve. He is not an unhealthy child, nor is he “obese.” But you know what, even if he was it is not your place to point that out to him, to me, to his father. You are not a part of our village, so therefore, please, DON’T HELP.
My son has been concerned for the last couple years that he is “chubby” compared to some of the other kids in his class. We have had many talks about body types and eating healthy and exercise. We are trying to build in him a strong sense of self-worth and a commitment to a healthy lifestyle. His father and I, and the rest of my son’s “village” work with him on ALL of the factors to make him a happy and healthy human being. You are not a part of our village, so therefore, seriously, DON’T HELP.
My son is a sensitive child, and would be absolutely destroyed if he received your “helpful” little note. All of the work that his father and I and the rest of our “village” has done to build him up and give him strength and self-confidence would be negated by your note. You are not a part of our village, so therefore, I must insist, DON’T HELP.
Your letter attacks the child as well as the parent, and a lot of kids will read it. A lot of little kids, big kids, teenage kids and parents of kids will read it. You do not know these people personally. You don’t know if one of them has poor self-esteem, has a medical disorder, has an eating disorder, has a psychological disorder, or is hanging on by a very thin thread. Do YOU want to be responsible for pushing a person to that level of pain, possibly to a breaking point? You are not part of their village, so therefore, at the risk of causing irreversible harm, DON’T HELP.
Please, please, think about your intentions and reconsider them before it is too late. I am sure you think you are doing the right thing, but have you REALLY considered the harm it could cause? Are you comfortable with the risks? We all do have a responsibility to make the next generation the best society they can be. We have a responsibility to encourage them, to lift them up, to provide a sense of community and responsibility. Don’t ruin that. Please. Be a part of the global village that wants our children to be the best they can be as they grow up. Happy, well adjusted, confident. So therefore, before it is too late, PLEASE HELP. Don’t hand out that note.
Melissa said it better than I ever could. I sincerely hope Cheryl sees Melissa’s open letter and re-thinks her hurtful plan.
* To paraphrase my friend JoAnna “I don’t think it’s a costume; I’m sure she is like that even when it’s not Halloween.”
** Here are some of my favorite bloggers with their takes on this topic as well:
- Elleroy Was Here writes “A Halloween Letter to Parents: Your Kid is Fat”
- The Shitastrophy interviewed her 10-year-old “My Child Responds to the Halloween Letter”
- Snarkfest writes “It’s Halloween and the Asshats are Out!”