Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What Not to Say

Every day I learn something new...change something about the way that I parent my children...shift my views on different subjects. There are very few things that I've always been firm on, but when it comes to what is said to my kids I have a long list of things that I have vowed to never say, especially in anger. (Or let anyone else say if I can help it, although I know that's not always going to be possible.)

You're fat.

You're ugly.

I hate you.

I shouldn't have had children.

I'm going to kill you.

I never want to see you again.

You're stupid.

I love your brother/sister more than you.

Why can't you be more like your brother/sister?

Since they will inevitably one day be teenagers *shudder* I know that the word "stupid" will cross my mind once or twice. Tim and I have done our best to stop using it at all already. Instead we say "That wasn't a good idea." I'm sure one day they will utter the word "hate" in my direction and I hope to have enough sense to be able to stop myself from saying something like "Well, I hate you sometimes, too."

I know first hand how damaging the smallest, seemingly meaningless joke can be. I was often told that my rear end was "two ax handles wide" or that my chest resembled "mosquito bites" or "scrambled eggs." I can see now that it was all in fun, but my young, impressionable self didn't see it that way. To say I was, and still am, insecure about my body is a gross understatement. Some days it can consume my entire being. It's unhealthy and I know it. I'm working on focusing on being the healthiest I can be, and not scary thin.

(A quick example: When Tim was deployed, becoming skinny was my goal. By the time he came home I was 107 lbs, super thin, and still wanted to lose another 5 lbs. My diet consisted of Diet Coke, Lean Cuisine pizzas, and cigarettes. Healthy, I was not.)

Yes, that's really me on the left. And I thought I was FAT.

If you can't tell, the thing I'm most worried about never saying is the word "fat" to my children. I'm pretty positive that day will never come, but unfortunately it's become obvious that most people do not share my view on this. Case in point, the other day at swimming lessons the subject of what our kids eat came up. We were all complaining about how crazy our toddler's eating habits are, how they like something one day and can't stand it the next, or refuse to eat all at. One lady turned to me and said, "Well that's good for your little girl. At least you know she'll never be fat." 

Excuse me????

When did it become okay for someone to say this? Who thinks this is actually a GOOD thing? So what you're saying is that if my son decides to stop eating for a week that I should freak out and be worried about his health, but if my daughter stops eating it's a good sign that she'll become anorexic and that's OKAY?! Because God forbid she not fit into a size 2?! 

The only response I could manage was, "She'll be absolutely perfect no matter how much she eats." I'm sure there was something more eloquent or scathing I could have said to completely convey just how ridiculous I thought her statement was, but that was the best I could do. 

It was a good lesson for me in how little control I have over what people say and do. I realized that I need to work on ways to make sure that my kids know that other people can say really inappropriate things but that they should never let those things define them. I want them to grow up knowing that whatever their profession, however they dress or look, and whomever they love, that their daddy and I love them and support them 100%, without question.

They could not be more perfect.

Now if I could only convince myself to take my own advice. 

1 comment:

Laura said...

This is a really powerful post, Amanda. Thanks for sharing it.

It touches on some things I've been thinking about with this pregnancy. I'm thrilled that it's a girl, but also kind of terrified. Being a girl can be really hard! How do I help her have a healthy body image (is it even possible?)? How do I keep her from getting an eating disorder? How do I raise her in a way that she makes smart choices about boys? Agg.

I love your list of things to never say. I have some of my own - a lot of them based on things that were said to me, some that aren't. Like you say, there are a lot of things that grown-ups mean totally offhandedly, but that really hurt when you're a kid.

Anyway, thanks for this post.

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