Saturday, January 16, 2016

Too Young for This

I don't remember caring much about what I looked like in Fourth grade.  I remember wanting glasses when my friend got her glasses.  Sure enough, a few months later I needed glasses too.  I was so excited.  I picked pink frames.  My love for the glasses faded quickly.  But, really the glasses are the only thing I really remember caring about as far as appearance wise at that time.
My older daughter cared more about appearance at that age.  That didn't really concern me though.  She naturally loves fashion.  It wasn't all keeping up with appearances for her, it was a love of making outfits and trying out different clothes.
My younger daughter is more naturally the tomboy.  You can't always tell when you are around her, because her older sister has taught her a few things - as she has also taught her older sister a few things about climbing and wrestling.  But I watch her to see how much of her actions are her and how much are from outside.  This year has been rough.  She has cried because another girl called her fat.  She has called herself fat because of her belly.  Today we were downstairs working out and she asked me if she is fat now, will she grow up to be skinny?  Because skinny people usually grow up to be fat, right?
I would ask where this is coming from, but it really doesn't matter.  And I already know.
My Seventh grader has wanted to skip meals.  She has had multiple friends who have admitted skipping meals.  They are all, already skinny.  But they call themselves fat.  Others call them fat.
This isn't just for the girls.
My Fifth grader says he is too thin.  He has been called scrawny.  He's been asked if he eats.  He thinks of himself as wimpy and puny, but he's not.
I have one out of four kids who hasn't had a body image yet . . but I know it's coming.
We shoot for healthy.  "Skinny" is no longer a word I use.  I used to want to be skinnier myself - honestly, I'd love that right now.  But the kids wouldn't hear it the way I mean it.  I mean I want to be healthy and fit in to my jeans in the closet.  They hear a smaller size.  They don't know my plan is to eat healthy and work-out.  They just hear size.
I am not happy with my body right now.  It is too heavy.  But I won't say that in this house.  I talk about wanting to be healthier.  The kids know that my knee prevented me from exercising for an extended period of time and that I (self proclaimed to them) got out of shape.  They see me put the chips back on the shelf at the store and grab the grapes.
I tell them they are beautiful, all four of them.  But I realized awhile ago with my older daughter that I can't make her believe it based on my words.  I can tell her how silly I was when I was her age and her size and thought that anything beyond skin and bones had to be fat.  I can tell my younger daughter that I admire her love of healthy foods and I wish I loved veggies like she does.  I take my son out in the yard to work with me and tell him he amazes me when he challenges himself to move the big, heavy things out there.  They need to see their bodies as something to be proud of.  And they need to have that strong enough to keep out all the other voices they will hear.
We talk about what eating healthy does for a body.  We talk about what not eating healthy does.  We talk about what exercise does.  They have the knowledge.  But we'll keep talking about it, so that they keep hearing it.
And I'll point out to them how wonderful they are inside and out.  Every chance that I can.  I want them to hear that.  I want them to think about it.  I want them to see themselves as amazing.  And I want them to see themselves as amazing.  This morning my son ran a mile on the treadmill . . in snow boots - not mom-approved exercise shoes!  My daughter had given up on the Total Gym . . until she tried her brother's exercise of laying on her tummy and pulling herself up with her arms on the side rails.  She was so proud!  She could do it!  I want them proud of themselves in all areas!  I celebrated with them!
Tonight I am thankful that this battle of body image does not end with the outside voices that come to their heads.  For now, they will hear my voice and their father's voice . . encouraging them and praising them.  And soon, I hope that they hear their own voice, giving themselves credit and being proud.  I pray in ten years that none of my children will be in tears because some called them fat; and that none of them will skip a meal to try and be skinny; and that none of them will call themselves names because of how they look.  I am thankful that they are already starting to see their bodies as a tool to work with and that we have a chance to build a strong base for them to build a healthy body image on.

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