I'm not your usual "mommy blogger" as most of my shenanigan-filled posts would prove, but I love my daughter more than anything and struggle at times to know the right way to handle issues that come along with this most honorable and blessed job.
Today is one of those days.
As I was helping the princess get ready for school today, she put on her clothes, sucked in her stomach, and said "Mom, I feel like I'm..." and because we consider "fat" a not-very-nice word to use, she spelled F-A-T in the air with her finger instead of saying it out loud.
It knocked the air out of me. She's 7.
I had her come sit on my lap and I asked her a couple of questions like why she felt that way. She said that her belly is big and she doesn't like it.
I asked her if she was healthy. She said yes.
I asked her if she made good decisions about what she ate and if she ate healthy. She said yes.
I asked her if she was strong and if her body let her do the things she wanted to do. She said yes.
We talked for a minute about how each person, child or grown up, is made differently. Some are tall, some or short. Some are blonde and some are brunette. Some have blue eyes, some have brown. We are different in many ways and also similar in other ways.
Then I told her that her body is made exactly the way that God wanted her to be and that she was beautiful. That made her smile and then she was ready to brush her teeth and get on with her day.
She didn't make mention of it again. But it has been weighing on my mind really heavily today.
I knew that she would become aware of the differences in her classmates at some point and was hoping that she would just observe and accept that everyone is different, instead of making judgments of "better or worse than" or that being a certain height/weight/look was good or bad in comparison to others.
I was hoping, but I know better than that.
The truth is, she is bigger than most of her classmates. She is taller by a few inches and is solidly built. Not overweight, but not stick thin either. She is just solid. Just like I was at her age. And it was about the same time in my life that I realized, whether I noticed or one of the not-so-nice kids in my class decided to make sure I knew, that I was bigger than the other girls.
I decided that being bigger was "bad" and that I should be self-conscious about it. I should feel like I wasn't as good as the other girls that were thin and tiny and petite. I should be ashamed that I am wearing a bigger size in clothes and shoes and I should just accept that I wouldn't be as good as the other girls because I didn't fit in, literally.
This feeling wasn't a passing thing. It was something that dominated several years of my young life. I always felt like I was a "fat kid" and I still to this day hate to see pictures of myself when I was in that phase. My mom told me the same things that I'm telling my daughter now and I believed her until enough other people told me otherwise long enough and drowned out her positive perspective. I don't want my daughter to go through that but I'm pretty powerless to stop those outside influences from challenging her self-confidence on a daily basis.
When I hit about age 12, I grew another 4 inches and dropped weight to make me more of a tall "normal" girl as opposed to a "bigger" girl but I still always felt out of place. I still do most of the time to be honest with you and even though the logical part of me sees what's in the mirror, the insecure little girl in me still feels like I'm overweight, bigger, and thus "less than" others by comparison.
So my fear as a mother to a little girl that is very much like me, is how do I protect her from feeling the way that I feel about myself when she is 30 years down the road? How do I make today, and the years to come, about how strong and healthy and beautiful she is as opposed to how she is different than other girls? How do I keep my voice from being drowned out by other, louder voices of negativity?
I don't know.
Since she was was old enough to walk and eat solid food, we have focused on her being healthy. Staying active, playing hard, eating lots of fruits and vegetables and very little fast food or unhealthy foods in general. Her dad and I are both active people and we try to eat well, both for our own health, and to model healthy, active lifestyles for her. That is something that neither he nor I had while we were growing up so we want to do things better for our daughter. We don't talk in terms of weight but in terms of being healthy, making good decisions, and keeping our bodies strong. We agree it's the best way to make good decisions a life-long lifestyle for all of us.
The bottom line is that she is her mother's daughter, and as such, she is following in my biological footsteps as she grows and develops. I almost feel guilty about passing my genes down to her because with her dad and I, she was never going to be a tiny little petite girl, it's just not going to happen. I wish I had the tiny little petite girl genes to hand down to her, but I don't. I feel like she is being punished because she got my DNA. It's ridiculous I know. But it's how I feel on days like today.
My daughter is smart, healthy, hilarious, sassy, and beautiful. I hope that at the end of the day, that is what she sees when she looks in the mirror. Today, and every day of her life.
I'm open to any and all ideas from you guys on how I can continue to build her up, secure her self-esteem, and help her navigate the negativity that she is facing and will continue to have to challenge. What helped you when you were growing up to help combat some of the things that made you different?