Thursday, August 05, 2010

Don't Use the F Word

My daughter has started using the F word. She hasn't even hidden it from me. In fact, she said it to me twice. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. It's inevitable with all the teen culture surrounding her and what she picks up from her friends at school.

The F-word of which I most fear my daughter will fall under the spell -- Fat.

She is entering puberty and adolescence, and as I've mentioned, she's the size of a "normal adult-sized person." Coming to grips with that changeover from a tall, skinny, gangly child to a filled-out adultish person is difficult, especially when many of your friends still look like skinny, gangly kids. She's become conscious of the number on the scale, and apparently she and her friends have compared numbers, and she doesn't like that hers is higher. But she's taller than they are, and yes, she's beginning to fill out some, whereas many of them still have childish frames.

We talked about it. I told her how dangerous a poor body image is (I also knows that she checks in here at Snapshot to see what Mom has to say as well, so she'll hear it again). She said, "It's only bad when you stop eating because you think you are fat, but I don't do that. I can't not eat."

I answered that yes, indeed, an eating disorder is a dangerous and scary thing, something we have to keep watch over and avoid. But even if she doesn't develop unhealthy eating habits or fall into an endless cycle of diets, I told her that an unhealthy body image is sad because your body is always with you, and constant dissatisfaction about the way you look wears away at your self-esteem, and I want her to avoid that.

I don't know how to protect her -- how to give her a healthy body image, to teach her how to take care of her body with good food and moderate exercise without letting her self-esteem be tied to the number on the scale or on the tag in her jeans. Although I've never been thin and perfect, I've always had peace with my own body, even when I knew that I should lose a few pounds, and that's a peace that I wouldn't trade for anything -- even a supermodel's physique.

She's absolutely not fat, and yet I know that I can't convince of her of that. I have to just hope and trust and pray that we will be able to talk it through-- that she'll get over this hurdle, and will be able to love the body that God gave her, curves, thighs and other lumps to come.

It's just another in a long line stretching ahead of me of scary, dangerous things that she and I are going to have to navigate through together as we walk the path to adulthood and full maturity.


6 comments:

Lisa writes... said...

Not easy being a mom to teenagers. Boys or girls. I hate to see girls with poor body image yet that's such a hard thing to teach without going to another extreme! I guess we just keep telling our kids the truth and begging the Lord for His mercy on their behalf!

morninglight mama said...

Wow- this was a really powerful post, Jennifer. I've got my own issues to deal with, and man oh man, do I have to get them under control soon because these kids are listening!!

Thanks for making me think even more.

Jennifer, Snapshot said...

(From Gillian via email, since she can't log in to her Google Account)

It's definitely tricky.

I'm a bit like Amanda with regards to eating. I love eating and missing a meal is not an option (could be something to do with how grumpy I get when I don't eat!).

We can do our best to encourage a healthy body image, but in the end she (and the rest of us) have to come to the conclusion ourselves that we're happy with how we look.

Sometimes, if I'm having a bad day I just try and focus on the parts of me that I like and tell myself positive things about them (in my head...no one else needs to know!).

I don't remember being worried about the curves when they first appeared, but perhaps that's because I developed a bit later than my friends. No doubt it's a bit harder being the first in a group!

Amanda - I hope you can enjoy the body you have and rejoice in all that enables you to do :)

Lauren said...

Jennifer,

I feel the same way about my body. I know it's not "perfect", but I am comfortable with it and thankful for it. As a teenager, I had some doubts about my appearance (as all teenage girls do), but I escaped eating disorders and such. I truly believe that much of this can be attributed to my mother's attitude. She never told me if she was dieting, and she never talked about feeling fat and such, even though I am sure she did at times. You are modeling a healthy attitude toward your own body, and even though ALL girls will go through periods of doubt, Amanda will learn from your example, just as I hope my Best Girl will learn from mine. (I do think I will have an uphill battle with her--at five, she's already mentioned that her stomach is fat. She must have heard it at school, because I NEVER talk that way!)

Jennifer, Snapshot said...

Thanks for these open and honest thoughts. And yes, my mom was the same way. I fear that I'm not the best example -- not necessarily in the way I think about or talk about myself, but the true bad choices that DO result in those 10+ extra lbs.

Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

You are a great mom, Jennifer, and I know you are doing a fantastic job with Amanda -- keeping the communication open, being honest and encouraging and understanding. And most of all, praying for her.

This is scary stuff though...not looking forward to the continuing scary stuff as they enter teen-hood.