About… face!

I’m confusing my child.

I know it, and I can’t help it, and I wish I wasn’t doing it… but I am.

You see, I’m talking about The Little Helper, who is 10.  Well… 10 going on about 14 or so.  She’s way too mature for her age, although I have to admit that her peers are just as much to blame as anything.  Kids here in the UK mature way faster than kids back in the US do, I think.  I remember when I was 10, I was still playing with my Barbies and playing dress-up.  TLH, she really WANTS to still be playing with toys, but she recognizes that if any of her friends found out that she was, she would be absolutely vilified at school.  So while she really wants to stay a kid, part of her thinks that she has to grow up this fast, because “everybody else” is, too.

The problem is that she’s gained some weight in the last couple of years.  It’s been a gradual thing, not overnight.  And it all seems to have settled in her belly.  Her butt and legs don’t seem to have gotten much bigger at all, but her stomach has swollen so that she almost looks pregnant.  (I should also point out here that she has physically matured earlier than I thought she would: she’s been having her period for a few months now, it started back in June, I think.)  This presents a problem, because she wants to be all stylish and shit, just like the other girls, but having gained all her weight in her belly, it becomes hard for us to find things that not only fit but look good on her body shape.

What’s confusing for her is that for the first 10 years of her life, she’s heard me say nothing but negative things about my own body and my own fat, and now all of a sudden I’m telling her that it’s okay for her to be a few pounds overweight.  That there’s nothing wrong with the way she looks, and that if she wants to dress nicely we’re just going to have to experiment and find out what looks good on her body’s shape.

But I honestly think that even if I hadn’t discovered Fat Acceptance, I would be telling her something similar.  Because I don’t want my children to grow up with the same body-hatred and self-hatred that I grew up with.  I try my very damnedest to make sure that I don’t say a negative thing about the way they look, because I don’t want to do to them what was done to me.  (Body-hatred, like charity, begins at home.)  And I know it’s got to be confusing for them, but honestly, I just never thought that my hating my own body would affect my children at all.  In my self-absorbed view of my own world, my saying that *I* was fat and *I* was disgusting had absolutely nothing to do with my children at all, because I wasn’t talking about them.  I was talking about myself, and therefore nothing I said would affect them one iota.  Right?

Wrong.  I didn’t think about how children hear everything that goes on around them and internalize a lot of it (case in point: shortly after my husband confessed his affair, my then-4 year old looked at me and said: “are you happy now, Mommy?  You’ve been sad for a long time.”  Both of us had gone to great lengths to try and not let on that anything was going on, but even at 4 years old, The Little Chatterbox still knew something was wrong.  She might not have known what, but she knew it was something).  And now I’m hearing the self-hateful things coming out of The Little Helper’s mouth and I realize that I’ve done this to her.  I never meant to.  I didn’t think I was.  But I did.  And now I’m trying to undo the damage I’ve done, and I know I’m confusing her.

But I cannot – and will not – let her grow up with the same self-hate and body image issues that I grew up with.  It nearly killed me (literally; seven suicide attempts didn’t come from nowhere).  I will not allow the same thing to happen to my daughter.


5 Responses

  1. […] Check it out! While looking through the blogosphere we stumbled on an interesting post today.Here’s a quick excerptI’m confusing my child. I know it, and I can’t help it, and I wish I wasn’t doing it… but I am. You see, I’m talking about The Little Helper, who is 10. Well… 10 going on about 14 or so. She’s way too mature for her age, although I have … […]

  2. As a fellow parent, I understand and applaud you. I have sons, but we are dealing with the same issues.

  3. My mother was the same way — I don’t EVER remember her not being on a diet, and she DID spread it elsewhere, so that my father (who, for most of my life, worked a fairly physically-demanding job) was taking Stacker 2’s as well. And then, when I was 14 and my eating disorder became very apparant through drastic weight loss, my mother seemed completely at a loss to “how this happened.” Oh, right, hearing my mother brag that she hasn’t eaten for 72 hours — THAT is the way to teach me healthy eating habits & good body image!

    Not that I blame her, of course. My attitudes about myself came just as much from the culture as from my family, and to their credit, my parents have always emphasized ACTUAL acheivements vs. physical beauty. And my mother’s attitudes about herself didn’t spring from nowhere, either.

    Anyway, I’m glad you’ve “seen the light,” and good luck wished on your daughter. I had (haha, HAVE) a similar body shape — all belly and thighs — but it was especially pronounced in childhood, before boobs, ass, & hips came in to “right” the proportions a bit. 🙂

  4. Wow, you ARE self-aware. And you’re doing the right thing. Truly. It’ll be confusing for her at first, but if you can stick to loving YOURself, she’ll learn to do the same.

    I actually faced the very same thing with my mother. She made a point to never say anything negative about my weight. But hers? She couldn’t say a single nice thing. And we forget how closely daughters mirror their mothers. Your daughter has likely grown up looking at you and loving you and just thinking you look perfect. And when you talk smack about your body? Guess what she learns?

    Years and years ago, a very wise friend of my mother’s told her that if she didn’t learn to love and respect her body, she was going to give her daughter an eating disorder. She didn’t learn how to do that, but remembered the comment. And then she mentioned it to me years later…when I was dealing with an eating disorder.

    I repeat: keep it up. Not only does she need you, but you need you. You sound like an amazing human being.

  5. Wow. It’s true, our mothers’ relationships with their bodies have a big impact on our own. I was genetically destined to be fat, but I would never have dieted myself up to 350lbs if I had simply accepted my fat as a biological fact, like my hazel eyes, freckles, and fine brown hair, instead of fighting so hard not to be like the woman my mother hated (herself). I might have weighed about 200lbs, and I might have done all of the healthy, active things I wanted to do because I wouldn’t have believed that fat people don’t do athletic things. I might have been alot different; it took me twenty years of hating my body to figure out that self-hatred isn’t natural or inevitable, it’s passed down from parents and reinforced by society.

    The good news, though, is that right now, as your daughter is confronting the same issues from outside, you are already a role model in learning to accept yourself. It may even be more powerful to her because she knows you already dealt with all the same feelings she’s dealing with, and you came out victorious. The fact that you learned to accept yourself despite a long struggle is more impressive than if you had always loved your curves to begin with, and I think it’s a more important lesson for your daughter to learn — that loving yourself does not come easily in a thin-obsessed culture, but that it is possible and worthwhile. I wish my mother had learned that lesson; it might not have taken me so long to get here if she had.

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