Loving parents strive to protect and comfort their children in equal measures. Both are vital basic needs, yet often approached with in very different tones.
And managing those expectations becomes a balancing act when protecting and comforting suddenly seem at odds with one another.
"gdd-throwaway," as one especially anonymous Redditor goes by on the forum site, had plenty to say about the mama-bird-meets-tough-love balancing act in his recent post.
He wrote to Reddit's "Am I the A**hole" subReddit, a place where real life stories are recounted and moral advice is given.
His post concerns a parenting struggle between him and his wife. They've opposed each other on the best way to help their daughter in the face of possible abuse about her body.
He's confident in how much better his ideas are than his wife's, as the angry post makes evident.
The post begins with the earliest rumblings he heard about the issue.
"For the past few months, there have been several events that struck me as odd."
"What stuck out most to me was when a parent told me that she had 'ruined' her friend's birthday party by lecturing the other kids on the dangers of eating cake, and overall how squirrelly she gets when I offer her a bite of a snack or ask if she wants seconds."
This was enough to prompt some fatherly digging on his part. He went straight to the source.
"Recently, as I've been around her more, I've noticed her mannerisms. She always pulls at her shirt, hunched over, etc. So today, I asked her if anything was wrong, and she told me that she was fat."
"I asked her why she thought that, and she flat-out said 'mommy told me.' "
Immediately enraged, he set his sights on the culprit.
"I was livid. I went straight to my wife and asked her if it was true."
"She said yes. I, calmly, asked her why she would say such a thing to an 8 year old. She told me what she'd said before, about how she was fat as a child and her mother lied about it."
"She said her mother would scream and punish her if she so much as mentioned she wanted to lose weight, and how she had to find out from nasty comments by other kids at school that she was fat."
"She finished with, 'I'll be damned if I ever let that happen to our daughter.' "
After an angry back and forth, no common ground was found.
"I said, 'Well, good job. You fu**ed her up for the rest of her life. How dare you say that to your own daughter.' "
"She said, 'Oh trust me, it would've been worse if she had to find out from other kids.' "
"We went on for a while. I realized that she truly believed she was justified, body shaming and putting an 8 year old on a diet."
The end of his post illustrates one of the key benefits of an angry internet post like this one: the last word.
"She's had many issues in the past. Her mother was definitely abusive, she was anorexic for almost 10 years, etc. So I feel like she should know way better than this."
But of course, an advice subReddit cannot end there. Next came the barrage of commentary.
Regarding whether he was indeed, "the A**hole," the Reddit community had a range of opinions.
The majority, however, took his side. To them he was not the a**hole, or "NTA."
"That is scarring and can lead to eating disorders. Trust me, I know."
"Putting her on a diet is not the answer, just teach her about healthy foods, portions, and exercise and do it TOGETHER. Telling her she is fat is appalling."
"I would be LIVID and I know first hand the effect that has on self esteem, confidence, social skills, and body image."
"Hug your little girl and tell her she is beautiful please..."-- HauntedDragons
"Wtf... NTA at all. Why is your wife treating your daughter this way?"
"She's 8 years old. She probably ruined this kids self esteem for the long run thinking she's fat. I'd be f*cking furious if my wife acted like that to our child." -- pickledjack
"NTA - And in no way is finding out from other kids worse than hearing that from your own mother. Yikes." -- fancymelanin
"NTA. Your wife clearly has unresolved childhood trauma that she needs to work on with a therapist."
"Your daughter should likely see a therapist too since this has already started to alter her behavior and mental health." -- IamtheDogtor
"If a child is genuinely overweight then moderating their food intake and teaching them healthy eating patterns is the way to go."
"However, the issue is that your wife is emotionally abusing your child. She is instilling the opposite of healthy eating patterns in her -- she's teaching your daughter that food is an enemy, and that eating it will make her unlovable." -- JasonJdDean
"NTA. Mostly I say this as someone who has had body image issues my whole life."
"I feel horrible for your wife, but I promise, your daughter will remember unless its corrected quickly." -- brittycrocker
Some, albeit not nearly as many, could empathize with where this mother was coming from. Though they did still have problems with how she went about it.
"Your wife has very good intentions, but very poor methods of execution."
"But you do not want your daughter to grow up fat, not only due to the physical problems associated with it but the mental problems as well that can arise from herself or like your wife said from other kids in school."
"Discuss it with her on how to proceed in a much healthier ways. Also work on your communications, they seem very poor." -- youreabigR
"Though your wife definitely shouldn't say, 'You're fat' to her daughter, it is also harmful to let an overweight child think they're healthy and everything is as it should be."
"The stance of, 'She's only eight she shouldn't have to think about stuff like that" can be just as harmful as his wife's stance."
"Overweight kids turn into overweight adults who don't know how to properly care for themselves, resulting in many many health problems." -- Loesje2303
"I recently studied this - how many parents will ignore their children's weight and often don't see it as a problem to address or discuss even when medical professionals advise their child to be overweight."
"Children are not stupid. They know when they're different and sometimes having their parents coddle them is not helpful."
"But your wife shouldn't verbally focus on your daughters weight EVEN if she is indeed very overweight. Because this isn't solving the problem but instead pushing a body image."
"I think you should have a discussion with your daughter. Understand HER feelings and motivations."
"And if she really does have a concern about her body try and support her with this in a HEALTHY way in unison with your wife." -- YIvassaviy
A story like this hammers home a lesson we can never learn enough: it is not the "what," but the "how."