Pageants are truly a whole lifestyle. And if you get sucked into them as a kid, it can be hard to maintain healthy habits, especially if your own mom is trying to promote things like restrictive diets. One dad recently had enough of his wife pressuring their 14-year-old daughter to adopt unhealthy dieting practices to maintain her figure for pageants, and he took to Reddit's "Am I the A-hole?" to ask if he'd reacted appropriately.
He explains that his wife used to be an "extremely competitive pageant girl" and gave it up shortly after they got married and she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Then, their daughter was born. She started putting the poor kid in pageants when she was only 4 years old, but this father let it go because "she seemed to enjoy it and was good at it."
Now, their daughter (whom he calls C), is 14. She's won a bunch of prizes, including some money to help set her up for her future. But, he writes, "Since C has gotten older, M [his wife] has gotten more obsessive with her appearance.
"She constantly makes comments about C's skin, her hair, her weight, and anything else under the sun that isn't 'pageant ready.' It's gotten so bad that C has left the dinner table crying on a couple of occasions now."
Oh no, no, no. This is so not OK. Young people, especially young women, are bombarded with unrealistic beauty standards all the time. It's such hard work to teach a kid they can and should feel comfortable in their own skin just because of the external factors.
Once you have a parent who is visibly obsessive about their own body or that of their child, it becomes even more harmful and that much more likely to contribute to developing a complex or eating disorder.
He has tried to talk to C about it, but she would insist it was fine and that their daughter "knows she needs to take this seriously." This is an unhealthy relationship with her own body in the making. And it's even worse than that.
He writes, "Last week, I discovered that M has C water fasting and keeping her calorie intake under 950 a day." Unhealthy for a grown person, let alone a growing 14-year-old! That's when he, understandably, "lost it."
"My daughter is only 14," he writes, "there is no reason to put her body through so much stress." This led to a huge argument between him and his wife, and C witnessed the whole thing. M tried to get C to argue her side, but "C wouldn't really say much, aside from that she likes doing pageants and she doesn't want us to fight," he writes.
That's when he made the decision that C would no longer be allowed to do pageants unless she can manage herself and not have M set unrealistic standards for her. He also told his wife "she can't live through C" and that their daughter should be able to have a childhood that doesn't include "dieting herself to no end."
His wife locked herself in the bedroom for the rest of the night. It's been several days, and she still won't talk to him. But he writes that C told him it was OK and didn't seem mad at him. He writes, "Now I'm worried that I'm making a decision that might affect my daughter's future and my relationship with M."
Here's the thing. It's tough to take a stand as a parent and say, "I will not allow this to happen anymore" when you're going against your partner. There are a lot of instances where that is not appropriate. But many in the comments agreed that because it had to do with the health of his child, he was justified.
"950 calories a day for a 14-year-old is outright child abuse," one commenter wrote.
"I literally just had this discussion with my 10-year-old," another wrote. "Children and teenagers are literally having to satisfy the regular activity needs while growing bones and muscles and nerves. The caloric requirement is pretty hefty and not meeting it will cause damage to growth, not to mention mental health."
Someone else pointed out that 950 calories a day is less than the prisoners of Auschwitz got. In a follow-up comment, the dad explains that C already has horrible anxiety and has been in therapy for about two years, even though M is against it.
M's own mother was also abusive when it came to maintaining her body for pageants. OP writes that "her mother would wrap her in Saran wrap and make her work out to swear more / lose more weight." But even though she seems to know what her mother did to her was wrong, she refuses to see a therapist or recognize that she's doing the exact same thing to her own daughter.
It's a health risk for a 14-year-old to be on a restrictive diet like that, and her father was justified in trying to protect her. What her mom is doing is abuse. Let's just hope she comes around and does the work to reverse the damage she's already responsible for when it comes to her kid's mental and physical health.