Monday, April 15, 2013

Dear Mom, Love Me & Let Me Love Me







The thoughts and opinions in this post are exclusively mine. 
I reserve all rights to them. 
You may consider them to be controversial. 
I will not be held accountable if you are offended 
or misunderstand/misinterpret 
or simply don't understand them. 
Nor will I defend them further than this post already has. 
Read at your own risk. 


As a child I was not really fat.

Pudgy, curvy, with a bit of a belly sure, but not fat.

I was bigger in the sense of height, always several inches taller than my peers. I was more solid and compact (heavier) while other children my age were long and gangly and feather like, but again, I wasn't fat.

I remember in my earliest memories hearing my great grandma and my grandma and my mom and sometimes even my grandpa talking about foods they should and should not have given me.

"Don't give her that Bill," my great grandma would say to my great grandpa. "She's already had to many."

I was often offered chips and cookies and fruit roll ups and fruit chews and sometimes candy as a snack instead of healthier choices. It was no wonder I was always hungry. Being fed food with essentially no nutrients will keep a kid hungry and wanting more. But my family would scoff and shake their heads in refusal when I would request more.

"You've had enough," they would tell me.

I imagine if they had fed me fruits and veggies and other more healthful options I may not have still been hungry when I finished my snack OR perhaps I would have wanted more of that healthy item as well. Would they still have refused me, or would they have given me more of the healthy food? I wonder this often.

I learned to scorn food early on. I had a love hate relationship with it. Food was something wonderful to anticipate, something incredibly satisfying as I ate it, and then a complete disappointment when it was gone. As a child you only know what you feel. You don't realize the psychological and emotional attachment and detachment patterns forming. Perhaps the adults in my life should have noticed. But they didn't.

My mom was very thin during my younger childhood years. My grandma, who I lived with, walked upwards of 10 miles every day. My grandfather, the very successful owner of a thriving one man construction company, was into all the latest trends in vitamins and protein shakes. My grandma did step aerobics and often carted me out to the gym to spend time in the day care while she exercised. My mom liked going to the gym as well, but I don't ever remember going with her. I do remember that she liked to lift weights.

To put it in a nutshell, much of my younger life was not about me. It was about them. Their health. Their weight. Their activities. Their social lives. Their issues and the next place they would drop me off so they could focus on themselves and all those things.

When I got to be a little bit older and had actually started gaining real 'fat' weight, my grandma tried to get me more active. I hated sports. I had running. I only wanted to ride my bike when it was MY idea. Not when someone told me I should or they wanted me to. My grandma took me on 1-2 mile walks that I remember whining and crying about not wanting to go on. But she would force me with or without my bicycle. I know she was trying to do what she thought was best. But looking back and knowing how ineffective it was, I wonder if she hadn't used a different approach of my interest in activity would have been different.

When I got even a little bit older my grandma had me do 'sweatin' to the oldies' with Richard Simmons with her at home on VHS. I would do it - more willingly than any other activity- and it was all right. But I didn't understand why I had to exercise like an 'old person'. Because you know when you are 10-13 a 30-40 year old is an 'old person'. And I especially didn't like having to look at the 'fat women and men' who were exercising with me on the TV. I wasn't used to 'fat people'. My family was all thin and fit and super health conscious.

In the time that my mom got pregnant with my sister the atmosphere of my life had been turmoil. My mom and step-dad had been on the verge of divorce and I was in 4th grade. I started lying a lot, rebelling. I ate more. I snuck food at home. I stole food (candy) from teacher's reward bins. At the time, I didn't know why I was doing it but now as an adult, I realize I was STARVED for attention. The attention everyone else was giving to themselves and other people.

FAST FORWARD TO THE PRESENT ...

I know a woman who we will call MOM. MOM has two daughters; DAUGHTER A & DAUGHTER B. MOM was extremely overweight and decided to make herself healthy when DAUGHTER A was young and DAUGHTER B was a baby. MOM is now super fit and super health conscious. DAUGHTER B is tall and thin. DAUGHTER A is tall and curvy (not fat - but not thin either)

MOM talks a lot about her diet. How fat she is. How she needs to work out more. How she feels nasty if she eats too much of X Y or Z. She is constantly talking about herself, her body, her goals, her distaste about her current physical condition and other derogatory things on social media.

Recently DAUGHTER A (who is now a tween) decided she ought to go on a diet.

((Insert angry growl))

I know another woman. We will call her MAMA who has a daughter the same age and same body type as DAUGHTER A. This mom too, has had weight issues and recently lost a large sum of weight. However, MAMA doesn't talk about her weight loss or her ventures in working out, or her healthy eating habits vs. her poor eating habits on a minute to minute basis. MAMA lives life with her new habits, her new body and her child and her child has no interest (nor a need for interest) in dieting, or losing weight. She has no significant or exaggerated body issues like DAUGHTER A. She is just a normal, average, fun loving, go lucky tween.

The girl inside me who at this precarious age was feeling so insecure and fat and ugly and self conscious feels deep and raw anger for DAUGHTER A.

Perhaps it is just a symptom of the age. Perhaps it is being female. Perhaps it is many contributing factors. But I feel that we as parents lead by example. You can preach all you want but words mean nothing when your child is much more easily influenced by your actions.

Mom looks at herself in the mirror and frowns every morning.

Maybe I need to as well. Maybe there is always something to frown about.

Vs. Mom looks at herself in the mirror and either makes no big deal of her appearance and/or even SMILES.

Daughter might think, it's okay to look in the mirror and be okay with what you see

Mom weighs herself every day and complains about the number.

Maybe I should weigh myself too. But what is a good number? I don't know, but whatever it is, mom NEVER looks happy so I am sure my number will be bad too.

Vs. Mom weighs herself once a week and makes no big show of it

Daughter might not even pay attention due to the lack of 'the event'.

Mom is constantly talking about how fat her belly is, how jiggly her thighs are, how flat her butt is and how low her boobs sag.

I can pinch skin from my stomach too. So I must be fat too. My thighs touch so that can't be good and my butt looks just like moms. Gosh, I hope my boobs never sag.

Vs. Mom doesn't make a huge verbal deal about her appearance in either the positive or negative light

Daughter learns to be content regardless of what she sees in the mirror

But for Daughter A and the girls like Daughter A out there who have a parent OBSESSED WITH THE PHYSICAL AND THE SCALE AND THE NUMBER, SUDDENLY the girl - whose biggest worry should be 'whether to have hot lunch or bring it from home' or 'whether she has done her homework' or 'whether she forgot her science book at her friend's house' - is worrying about her body. Is it too big? Too small? Too fat? Too skinny? Too bony?

IS IT GOOD ENOUGH?

I believe it is our job as parents to encourage our children to be the best they personally can be and to do that we MUST invest time in them. As much time as we invest in bettering our own bodies, our own health, our own minds, our own fitness levels, our own habits and conquering our own demons, WE MUST BE WILLING TO TEACH THEM TO DO THE SAME but in A BETTER, MORE HEALTHY WAY THAN WE HAVE DONE IN THE PAST.

Here are my two daughters:

Sassy will be 5 in June. She is TALL (44") and THIN (40lbs) and straight up and down. There is really not an ounce of fat on this girl's body. And she is beautiful that way. She isn't TOO skinny. 

BUT I have to counteract a lot of flack from my family who tell her she 'needs to put some meat on her bones'. I have to tell them to stop putting needless notions like that in her mind. 

SHE EATS. 
SHE IS HEALTHY. 
SHE DOES NOT NEED MORE MEAT ON HER BONES.

I do not approve of giving children subliminal messages that they are not good enough. By telling my daughter she needs to put meat on her bones is telling her she 'needs to change in order to be good enough' AND IT IS MY JOB TO LET HER KNOW SHE IS ALREADY GOOD ENOUGH

This is Breezy. Please excuse the clip art. 
We don't like to advocate for 'child porn' on this site.
OK
OK
IT'S A JOKE PEOPLE!!! JEESH! 
But the little clip art bikini is cute, right?
Breezy will be 4 in August. She is also extremely TALL (42") for her age. But she is not 'skinny' (46lbs). She is exactly as I was when I was her age. Little pouchy belly, but solid, sturdy, not fat. 

Yet, in the same way I must defend Sassy from derogatory messages, I have to deflect statements for her from my family as well. "You better be careful. She has your genes." They tell me this all the time, as if by looking at her and her more sturdy little body, they intuitively know that she is likely to become obese like me. I often offer both my children healthy-er snacks like hummus and carrots or apple slices or cucumbers with lime juice and a little salt. Yet, I often hear regarding Breezy; 'She just ate. Why does she need more?'

All of this background noise that adults think children don't notice, DOES NOT GO UNNOTICED.

Children can hear it in the words themselves, their tone, and they get it. If my grandma, great grandma, great grandpa, aunt, uncle, or whoever whom I LOVE TO THE ENDS OF THE WORLD AND BACK and who tells me they love me says I need to change, or thinks this certain way, I MUST NOT BE GOOD ENOUGH UNTIL I CHANGE THAT.

It is BS people.

Breezy likes to eat, and eat often. It used to be if I gave her something healthy, she would eat it. If I gave her crap she would eat it and whatever I gave her, she was satisfied. It was only after the comments and questioning from the family began that she started wanting more crap. (sound familiar? like a new cycle of the younger me?)

While my baby still loves healthy food I see patterns developing in her despite my best efforts to curb those bad habits. Just.Like.When.I.Was.Little. And it scares me. But I will not take drastic measures to try to correct it. I'm not going to force her into severe exercise or severe calorie restriction. I will attempt to correct it subtly. She doesn't need to be told anything that is too difficult for a 3 year old to understand. Simply, foods that God made (cucumber slices, baby carrots and hummus, or apples etc etc) are yummier for your tummier than chips. That is all she needs to know and if she insists on chips than she can have a serving WITH her healthy snack. But she doesn't have to know it is 1 serving. I can even split up 1 serving in 1/2 so she feels like she's getting 2 helpings. It isn't about breaking our children for their own good. It is about teaching them for their own good.

And I am here to advocate that for my babies. Correct any poor habits (not force them out of or shame them) that they have learned from  me (like eating out of boredom or using food as a 'blanky') and instill good and healthy habits. I am here to let them know that they don't have to change physically just because others might think they do. No, you do not need more meat on your body and yes, if you are still hungry, by all means eat a few more naturally God made foods.

THEY ARE GOOD ENOUGH. 

MY CHILDREN ARE GOOD ENOUGH.

They have their whole lives to fight against the image of perfection, the people who will tell them that they are not good enough. They have their whole lives to fight against the people who will insult them, try to make them feel inferior, try to defame their character, their beliefs and who they are. They have their whole life and it is my job to make sure they FEEL CONFIDENT, STRONG, AND ABLE to me take on those people based on what they have learned from me. I am their mom. 

IT IS MY JOB TO LOVE THEM AND TEACH THEM HOW TO LOVE THEMSELVES.  

I wish when I had been little, someone had taught me to love me.





Which brings me to this. 

It is MY belief that today's parents (even more so than the parent's of my generation) do not stop to prioritize their children. By this I don't just mean spending time with them, playing and hanging out. I mean REALLY prioritizing their children.

So many kids today are left with nannies or sitters or day care while parents work or go out with friends or go to the gym or do any other X Y or Z. Then when parents come home, the time spent is mostly playing and hanging out. There is no time for instilling crucial factors in the stability of the child's life as they grow. Children need a foundation to build on, like any other stable structure needs a firm foundation; so does their little life. And within the confines of that foundation are a few things.
  • Trust (mutually between parents and children)
  • Love (mutually between parents and children)
  • Guidance (by the parents for the children)
I would say that today's modern parents do provide the first two components of a firm foundation. But guidance is left up to the care taker or no one at all if the parents happen to be lazy and just sit around all day thinking the kids will raise themselves. Today's kids are so confused about so many things because they lack proper guidance from seemingly small things to ginormous things.
  • Religion/faith/or purpose if the family is without religion or faith
  • Morals 
  • Values (because morals and values are different)

Definition of "Morals"

  • Morals are the set of concepts that conform to the generally accepted ideas of what is right and wrong in a given society.

Definition of "Values"


  • Values are the standards by which the individual defines what is acceptable or unacceptable, beautiful or ugly, good or bad.
  • Education
  • Behavior/Tact/Manners
  • Hygiene
  • Nutrition
  • Fitness/Activity/Play
There are so many more as well, but you can see just from the list above that if parents are not diligent in covering these aspects of life, a child will become confused, rebellious, detached, irritable, defiant, they have outbursts, temper tantrums, acts of violence, or they become withdrawn, sad, depressed, anti-social. They get poor grades, have issues with friends or have a hard time making friends, they don't want to participate in activities, they don't want to go anywhere or do anything ... and so on and so forth.

And in this day and age we can't possibly imagine that the lack of positive parental attention could be the reason for all of this. We can't possibly imagine that the anecdote would be quality time spent with a positive parental figure. So we make appointments with pediatricians, psychologists, therapists, psychiatrists and the like. We  liberally label these 'symptoms' with disorders and syndromes and we medicate our children to 'fix it'.

It hurts me.

That so many children are labeled and medicated for symptoms that could easily be eradicated by time spent regularly with their parents; learning about life, about what they think, what they know, what they want, what they need. 

It is my opinion that if you are going to bring an innocent life into this world and keep that innocent life, you are signing an intangible contract to love, care for and be responsible for the well being of that life. It is my opinion that parents who do not take that responsibility seriously and who do not adequately prepare their children for life and how to live it need to be helped and shown how to do so or made to do so. It is not the child's fault they were born to parents who were ill equipped to teach or parents who would prefer to be doing something else and the children should not be punished for their parent's short comings. 

I do think it is our job as a society to help those parents who do not know how to parent or do not know how to 'raise a child' learn how to do so. If we had more well equipped parents, and/or parents who were less interested in their own lives and more interested in their children perhaps our children would be happier, healthier, more well functioning participants in society. Perhaps our public education system would not be as bankrupt as it is. Perhaps obesity levels would not be at an all time high. Perhaps there would be less kids in therapists offices being prescribed Zoloft and Wellbutrin and maybe there would be many many less teen suicides. Maybe adult men would not feel the need to trespass in movie theaters and elementary schools to kill innocent people. Maybe, just maybe a sense of responsibility for self and others would be reborn in society as a whole. Maybe the crazy of today's world could slink back into the darkness a little, to let in some light.

What do you think?

If parents took the spotlight off of themselves and their own lives and/or learned how to raise their children properly with a good foundation, do you think children would be better off? Do you think society as a whole would be affected positively? Or negatively? In the long run do you think the affects on society would be significant?

I'd like to hear your thoughts and if you don't want to post them in the comments section. Feel free to e-mail me: kreatingkristen@gmail.com
_____________________________________

I'll be back a bit later with weigh in results. 


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3 comments :

  1. Great post! I was also a slightly 'thick' little girl that was fed negative messages. I am a normal size woman and have externally a positive body image. I also made the conscious choice to not feed my daughter negative body image messages. She is now a high school senior with a healthy self image and a healthy body weight. Healthy because she eats healthy food and participates in sports.

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  2. Awe, love this post. Just shows how much you love and care for your girls and that you don't want the wrongs that others have done in the past to keep going. Growing up, I heard "you're going to end up like your mom" (fat) from one family friend. I would always say "nuh-uh" and then walk away with my bowl/plate of xyz! :)

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  3. I agree with most everything you said. I agonized when my kids were young about whether to go back to work (because we needed the income). I wanted to raise my own children. I did that as long as I could, until financial difficulties forced me to get a job. But I always hurried home to my kids. I have been criticized for doing too much for my children -- they are young adults and they know I will be there for them, whenever they need it. Perhaps I have done too much, in some ways, but I would rather err on the side of too much than not enough. I wish I had done so many things better, and part of the reason I did not was because I was broken myself. But my kids always came first, and they know that -- then and now. Now that they are on their own, it is time for taking care of me. There should be a way to do both, as you illustrated, but I did the best that I could. Great post, and your daughters are very blessed to have you.

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