Doctor's appointments are generally stressful under the best of circumstances. Having your body analyzed by a distant acquaintance can be a jarring experience even if you're in perfect health.
But when Julie Venn took her 13-year-old daughter Riley for a checkup, she felt her examining nurse overstepped by asking Riley about her weight gain. In Venn's opinion, such a question was out of bounds, and she posted the entire story to the Facebook group Moms of Tweens and Teens.
For Venn, the visit started off normally:
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. 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?
According to Venn, the nurse asked many probing questions about Riley's habits:
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.
Then the nurse dropped a bombshell:
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?" 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.
When Venn saw how the nurse's question about Riley's weight was affecting her daughter, she steppen in:
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!"
Venn continued to give the nurse a piece of her mind in the hallway, saying that if the nurse had concerns over Riley's weight, there were many better ways to handle it. She even offered one of her own:
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!
Reactions to Venn's post were somewhat split. Most believe she was in the right, and praised her for stepping in to defend her child:
Others, however, thought Venn was overreacting to a legitimate medical question:
No matter whose side you're on, however, tact seems to be the name of the game when dealing with sensitive issues like body image and its intersection with physical health. It's also important to remember that puberty is different for everybody, and judgement is never an appropriate reaction to a child growing into their adulthood.