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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The day I was dreading has come

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? 



10 comments:

  1. I think what you're doing is exactly the right thing. You and her dad are setting the right example both by making proper food choices and living active lives. She sees this and will model it. I'm not a mom, but I understand how she's feeling and where you're coming from. I've always been the "bigger girl" as well. I'm tall and solid and even if I lose the 20 lbs I want I will still be bigger than other women.

    Maybe show her pictures from your childhood. Perhaps seeing that she's similar in size to how you were may help. Keep stressing that this is how she's made and that there's nothing wrong about it.

    Good luck love!

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  2. There's a great national program called Girls on the Run. It is more about self-esteem than running, but it incorporates both. I am not saying this is a good idea from a weight loss perspective as your daughter doesn't sound like she is an unhealthy weight, but simply because I know it is a total "girl power" program. Maybe find a few books with strong, independent girls as protagonists to help her relate to. I would ask in the children's section of the bookstore or look online.

    The best thing you can do, though, is keep doing what you already are; listening and taking the time to respond appropriately.

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  3. I think sharing with her how you felt growing up is important. I think letting her know that others will point out the differences and might even try to be mean about it is something that should be openly talked about. I think an open discussion of "what is beauty" internal and external could be discussed. Reassure her of all those things you felt were missing for YOU at her age.

    My mother used to tell me to "slap it on my thighs" when I ate something unhealthy and harped on the fact that I wasn't built like her, skinny, chicken legs, bean pole, etc. and could eat whatever I want. Instead, I was built like my dad. Short and stocky. Yes I hated myself at points for not being able to follow in her physical footsteps. I still struggle with having a more athletic build and curves. No one ever told me I was okay or beautiful the way I was built.

    I think the more she is educated on society's BS images of beauty and can be shown that beauty comes in all different shapes and sizes, it's a good start. I know it must be heartbreaking for you but self-esteem and confidence building are part of growing up. Pain is part of growing up. But as long as she knows she's okay and loved externally-- she will feel it internally eventually.

    Good luck doll xoxo

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  4. You've got it right. Keep on doing what you're doing.

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  5. I agree, you are doing the right thing. Goodluck to you! ;)

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  6. Oh, man. That must've been such a punch in the stomach: the last thing you want your little girl to say. We all grow differently (How many times has that awkward kid from high school grown into the town hottie?), but the long-term probably doesn't matter to a child who sees that she may physically look different from other kids. And that SUCKS. So I think you are doing the right thing: encouraging a healthy lifestyle, eating right, and helping her see that she's a-okay just the way she is. Petite little girl genes are overrated, anyway. She's your daughter, which means she'll skip those petite genes and grow into a strong, independent, oh-so-smart woman -- just like you did.

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  7. Thanks for all of your feedback and suggestions. I really appreciate it. I think you're right, I should share with her the pictures and experiences I had when I was younger so she can know that she's not alone, and that I'm a really good person to confide in with how she's feeling because I understand. I just have to get over my own hang ups and be honest with her instead of trying to push my negative experiences away I guess. Geesh, being a good mom is hard stuff!!

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  8. I love your method! Good work. :)

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