My wife and son? They don’t share an iota of genetic material or heritage and yet, they have the same expressions, personalities, and often finish each other’s sentences – they share the same temper, too. And is it just me or do they kind of have the same smile?
The story is the same with my oldest daughter and I. Feisty, bossy, opinionated and fiercely independent. Oh yes, you can spot us from a mile away.
She was probably a red-head in a past life.
A lot of this feels like fate. A match made in heaven.
It’s neat to be able to see so much of yourself in your child, but of course all of us know what a responsiblity it is too. As I see the old saying ‘Like Mother, Like Daughter’ playing out before my eyes, I’m reminded of what an important role I have here. My children, my daughters especially, are always watching and learning from me.
Naturally, this encourages me to be my best self in front of them. There are more slip ups than I care to admit; but, for the most part, I do a decent job of tucking away the biting sarcasm, overly critical nature, social awkwardness, and cookie addiction. Well, about that last one. That one’s not so easy to hide. Because, as you can see, I’m fat.
I’ve been fat basically every day of my life. Its a family trait that has haunted me and has led me to feel shame, embarrassment, and hopelessness.
Then, I became a mother, and I found a strength and determination inside of myself that I never had known before. I don’t accept ‘can’t’ from my children and I wasn’t willing to accept it from myself any more. I started eating better (including completing a Whole30), exercising, and focusing on my health the way I would want my children to focus on theirs. I am wearing a smaller dress size and am prepping to run my first 5k in a few weeks.
I was – am – determined to end this family legacy with me. I don’t want my children to live in a body they are not comfortable with or struggle with food issues as I do. I make sure to talk about activity, feeling good, and eating healthy rather than “dieting” or “losing weight,” so it’s all good…right?
We visited the Science Center as a family this weekend and considering my personal focus of late, I was especially interested in checking out the healthy living exhibit. I sat down with my two oldest at game in which the kids “fed” disks of different foods to the person on the computer screen. I imagine it was intended to teach them about healthy food choices and portions. They got a bit overzealous about the feeding and when they had put in one disk too many, the computer woman’s stomach, hips, and thighs grew. (Frankly, she now looked a lot like me.) “Oh no! She had too much and her belly got big!” my oldest exclaimed. To my 6-year-old, the message was clear: she got fat so we lost the game.
Wait, what?? My (not-so-inner) feminist was outraged. We need to embrace bodies of all shapes and sizes – none being any better or worse than any other! We need to stop focusing on looks! And why does it have to be a woman on the screen, dammit?!
But considering the energy I’ve been putting in of late on changing my own size, I left that museum feeling like a pretty big [no pun intended] hypocrite. Was my health-quest sending the same message as that stupid game?
Shortly after, I came across this article. I read it, tears in my eyes, hanging on the truth of every word.
So as we sit there together, shoulder to shoulder, thigh to thigh, I pray for her to be smart. I pray for her to be strong. I pray for her to find friends, work she loves, a partner who adores her, and for the world not to beat out of her the things that make her who she is, for her life to be easy, and for her to have the strength to handle it when it’s not. And still, always, I pray that she will never struggle as I’ve struggled, that weight will never be her cross to bear. She may not be able to use the word in our home, but I can use it in my head. I pray that she will never get fat.
Yes, it’s true. I hope they never struggle as I’ve struggled.
Now I’m more confused than ever. What exactly is the message I am trying to send? You should love yourself as long as you avoid sugar, eat your veggies, and exercise regularly? No…that’s not it.
How do we reconcile the two, equally dangerous, epidemics of obesity and body-hatred for our daughters? Where is the middle ground between them?
What would I have said in the moment Ms. Weiner describes?
I don’t know.
When I pray, I don’t necessarily pray that my daughters stay thin – I just pray that they are happy. But what I do know, having lived life in this body, that happiness would come a bit easier if they did.