Parenting Fail: "Your Thighs Aren't Fat, but Look at Mine!"
I had a parenting failure this weekend; I almost didn't want to write about. But, my goal on this blog has always been to show the real side of parenting. The side of we don't see during pick up or drop off lines at school, during church, or out in the stores. Typically we consider our parenting failures as something we did, or didn't do. We berate ourselves for yelling, for not following through, or being distracted. We worry about the things, that can be turned around to show our kids grace and forgiveness for ourselves and other people. I almost don't consider them failures, I prefer to call them teaching moments.
But this weekend, I found myself in a situation where I really did see my reaction as a failure. My oldest is getting to the age where she notices appearance. You wouldn't necessarily be able to tell from the chocolate smeared on her face or the ponytail that is 3/4 tangles, but she started comparing herself to her friends. Which is crazy, because she's nine. She did make it further than me; at age seven, I came to the hard realization I would never have the body of a lithe ballerina. Instead I would be the short, stocky shot putter.
Saturday morning we played the game: Let's see what the kids have outgrown over the summer. The temperatures dived, and as Rebecca tried on pant after pant that made her look like she was wading through flood waters, I realized it was time to go shopping. But Rebecca's comment was, "Look how fat my thighs have gotten."
And my response, "No, your thighs are fine, if you want to see big thighs, take a look at these." And I proceeded to make my thighs dance.
My husband gave me a hard look and said, "Your mom's legs are strong because she runs. And your legs are strong too."
If he hadn't been there, I would have shown her what we women almost always do: point out our deficiencies before someone else does. You know the game. I hate my eyebrows. And then someone else says, your eyebrows, look at my earlobes. And then someone one ups everyone with saying, look at my shoulder blades.
It's a weird game we women play. I remember in high school a friend and I would grab a magnifying mirror and count all the imperfections on our faces. So then we could make fun of ourselves and prove it didn't bother us.
But my husband, thank God, reminded me I didn't want my daughter to go down that rabbit hole. Once we start picking our bodies apart, we distort it more and more. I want her to see herself as a strong, beautiful, empowered woman. Not a cynical, afraid, worried one. I couldn't stand that my beautiful, thin daughter already saw herself the wrong way.
When we went shopping later that afternoon, we talked about the clothing and the different styles, and that's why some pants fit better than others. Our bodies are all different and manufacturers make all kinds of different clothing so we can find what works best for us. If something doesn't fit, it isn't because you failed, it just isn't the right style for you. (See? All those episodes of What Not to Wear have come in handy. I will have to remind my husband of that next time he wants to watch something else.)
It was a good lesson for her, but an even better lesson for me.
There's a lot I want to teach my girls. But if I teach them anything, it will be to celebrate their bodies in the shapes they are, take care of their bodies, and to not see imperfections as weakness. It's a lesson I still struggle with at 36, and hopefully by modeling a better attitude, I can save her 20 years of hurt.
This weekend reminded me that our kids hear what we say. I need to watch how I talk about my body. How I talk about being healthy. How I talk about the people around me. It was a good wake up call that I teach my kids hurtful habits without even realizing it.
And if I want my daughter to respect herself, I better start showing respect for myself.
How do you talk about your body to your girls?
Jessica blogs on Long Days, Short Years and tries to portray the real side of parenting.