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Posts Tagged ‘health’

Why can’t I tell my daughter she’s pretty?

Will that make her believe her sole worth is tied up in the beauty I see in her face? Will it ensure that she develops an eating disorder or a personality complex or make her vain or narcissistic? Will my name come up all too often in future therapy sessions because I told her she was pretty and that somehow manifested itself into me being a mother who put too much importance on her physical looks?

I was shopping for clothes at the local second-hand store with my kids and had two simultaneous realizations that… I suppose, are very much related.

My oldest daughter (who will be 16 in a few weeks), was drawn immediately to the rows of shorts — micro-mini-shorts. I said, “no”, without so much as a look in her direction. Then, her logic hit me… with overwhelming force, as most teenage logic does.

She stared deep into my eyes and asked, “do you think I’m a slut if I wear short shorts?”

 “No!”, I vehemently denied, without hesitation.

Of course I don’t think my daughter is a slut… what I was thinking about was if others would think she was a slut. The visions of Rush Limbaugh that floated through my mind at that very moment sickened me.  

Her words stopped me from traveling down a path that too many use as an excuse to defile girls… it made me remember this post I read a while ago about the amazing Eve Ensler. Our clothes and our looks should not define how we are treated by others… but often, it does.

This realization hit me like an elephant kicking me in the gut… how easy it was for me, a strong-willed-out-spoken-independent woman to fall into the trap of blame and shame.

My other realization was with my youngest daughter (8). She is, in childhood terms, chubby. I’ve been watching her gain weight the last couple of years… I changed her diet, began telling her the importance of eating fruits and vegetables, cut back on the high calorie meals, and cut out visits to fast food restaurants. Still, she steadily has gained weight. Her clothes are too long in length in order to get them to fit the waist. I worry and plan and worry some more.

Let me not fail to mention my son (13) — he went through a couple of years of chubby and now is thin… maybe too thin. I read an article on the growing number of boys affected by eating disorders. So, now I have my girls and my boy to consider with each word and glance and misplaced sigh of disapproval that escapes my body. I have to make a conscious effort to not fall into that trap of societal pressure — am I complimenting their brains enough, am I telling them how nice they are enough, am I encouraging their creative talents… enough?

So, here I am, in the middle of the consignment shop being questioned by my oldest as to if I think she is a slut for wearing certain types of clothes, ruminating about the food that I should and shouldn’t allow my youngest to eat, and wondering if I should be concerned about my son’s weight loss.

My horror at myself came when I grasped the uncomfortable fact that I was concerned about the perception of others… in some cases people I didn’t even know and probably wouldn’t want to know. I was concerned about how all of this would look reflected on me as a mother.

Later that day, when the stress was far behind and we had all retreated to our corners of the house, I googled “the best way to help your child eat healthy”. The first thing that popped up, surprisingly, was a direct answer to that question — “the best way to ensure your children make healthy choices in life is to let them see you make healthy choices”.

Okay.

Great.

Somehow it always rolls back around to being the mothers fault.

Now I realized I needed to focus attention away from my worries about the kids and look at myself… never a fun task. I had been eating healthy for over a year, my kids don’t even ask to go to fast food restaurants anymore, we have salads and fruits and lean meats. My oldest and I are currently practicing pescetarianism… the other two aren’t far behind. But, admittedly, I’ve been lacking on a steady exercise routine — this is where I needed to focus my change.

Last week I read an article about an article… I haven’t read the original article that seems to have pissed so many off. It’s in the April issue of Vogue and purchasing Vogue isn’t on my budgeted list. The original article by Dara-Lynn Weiss, talks about how she put her 7-year-old daughter on a diet. My dismay (along with others, I’m sure) is the way she went about it. In her own account, she talks about berating her daughter in public and focusing most of their private conversations around her daughters need to lose weight… I did mention she was 7, right?

I’m thinking Mrs. Weiss’ name will come up in future therapy sessions way more often then mine.

But… here’s the thing.

I think my youngest daughter is pretty and I do tell her this, often… physically attractive. I tell her I see her beauty in her mouth and her nose and her eyes that always pierce straight through to my soul. I see her beauty in the way she laughs and cries and screams and flashes those looks of contentment. I also think I need to show her how to be healthy by being consistently healthy myself — not by putting her on a diet or ridiculing her in public.

I think my oldest daughter is amazingly gorgeous — long and lean and silky hair and eyes that are a color that hasn’t been named yet. I tell her this often. She is also a brilliant reader and writer, an amazingly focused student, kind, and funny, and just the perfect amount of smartass to round her out. And I don’t think she dresses like a slut, I’m not even sure what a slut dresses like… a suit and tie, micro shorts, dread locks? I don’t know. And, I’m glad she stopped me as I ventured down a path that pisses me off when I hear others venturing down it — what we wear does not define who we are nor does it invite unwanted advances or unwanted criticism.

And my son… he’s absolutely adorable — long hair, long eyelashes, a smile that makes girls faint. I tell him how cute he is all the time. I tell him how kind he is all the time, almost saint like really. He’s smart and funny and laughs loud enough to catch a whole room on fire with his charm.

So, will they need therapy when they’re older — possibly.

Will they blame a mother who focused all her attention on their outward appearance — hell no.

Back to the article… I’m not necessarily counted in the “backlash” group. I’m not sure there’s an “I concur” group related to this but I’m sure I wouldn’t belong to it either. I’m just a mother who learned from the mistakes of my past and my mothers past and her mothers past. I’m a mother who thinks my kids are attractive and smart and kind and funny — the order of those changes, as it should.

My children, like your’s, are beautiful and have great hair and gorgeous smiles and enough intelligence to take-over the solar system and enough kindness in their souls to warm the Grinch’s icy heart.

I may think I’m shaping them into the adults they will become… but, really, they’re shaping me into the mother I will become.

Why can’t I tell my daughter she’s pretty?

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“Each has to enter the nest made by the other imperfect bird.” – Rumi

I think I’m possibly messed up — you know, in that way that you think you’re thoughts are far more different from the thoughts of those around you so you tell them that you think you’re messed up hoping that the response is a hearty, “Yes! You are messed up — but no more than the rest of us.” And when you hear that… it makes it all okay, because we’re all messed up and we’re all clinging to each other in hopes of something, anything to get us through.

My thoughts, lately, have settled on this concept of “letting go”. When ever I hear people say this, they say it with such nonchalance, with such disregard — with more matter-of-fact to their voice then I think anyone who has actually had to contemplate this concept would ever dream of using. Letting go is never just that.

We travel through this life and we meet people and we experience joy and shame and embarrassment and exuberance — we experience everything that makes our lives worth living. We take these experiences as they come and we sort through the ones that might bear repeating and we toss the ones that were less than appealing. But that’s the experiences — those are easy to let go and process and move away from.

The people who come in to our lives throws this concept of sorting through the good and the bad somewhere out in to the wind on a stormy day. I’ve never been one to hang-on to people. When I knew a relationship had run its course or had run me down — I let go… easily. Then, without hesitation, I would always shut down — completely… no way in, no way out. To me, letting go meant letting go of the actual person — never just letting go of the bad feeling or the wrong encounter or the moment in time that came between us. Letting go was final. Permanent. So, I would shut down… retreat back in to whatever protective shell I had managed to maintain while I was testing the waters of human connection. A delicate balance of standing in the middle of a stampeding herd of oncoming emotions and jumping behind the barrier of a stony heart.

Now, as should be the case as we learn to experience and learn to grow and learn to contribute to those around us, I have been attempting to come to some type of understanding between the need to let go, the need to hang on, and the need to not shut down — the gray area… knowing what to let go of and what to hang on to. Letting go does not have to be all-inclusive. Letting go can be as refreshing as a deep breath after trying to prove you can swim from one end of a pool to the other, underwater. If we let go of the right things… the feelings, the thoughts, the moments that break us, then we learn, we evolve, we continue to assemble the puzzle that is us. Hanging out in the gray area sifting through it all — that’s where the power is… there, in the gray area.

We learn, we evolve, we accept our own short-comings and we hold ourselves up to a mirror to recognize the need for change. Shutting down is easy, complete, absolute — wash your hands and move on. To not shut down is a true sign of growth. So I’m sitting here… letting go of the right things and hanging on to the right things and taking a giant step away from a stony heart — I’m sitting in the middle of the gray area. I’m messed up. I’m letting go, but I’m not shutting down.

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I’m sitting here, in a narrow leather chair at the wheel repair shop… surrounded by wheels and rims and men with grease on their hands and cars in various stages of disrepair. It’s been storming all night, loud clapping thunder that was only out witted by the sharp electrical flashes of lightning that covered the entire sky. But now, as I sit here, the sun is shining. The clouds have disappeared and there is that wonderful smell of a fresh rain filling the air.

The wheels on my car have been squeaking — for a while. It’s rather embarrassing. That’s what brought me here to get them worked on, the embarrassing part. My neighbors would turn when I came down the road. Strangers would wince as I pulled in to the grocery store parking lot. I, however, ignored the sound for a while. I simply turned up the radio and sang along as if nothing was wrong. It worked for a bit. But then, even I became too aware of the squeak to not take action.

My wheels squeak all the time. I think this must have been an important detail because the look on the repair guy’s face when I told him this fact made me think it was an important issue. He looked horrified to be honest — in that way that wheel repair guys can look or brake repair guys or those guys who change your oil. They ask us these questions knowing our answers will confound them — but they ask them anyway, “… didn’t you hear it squeak?”

Apparently, our cars are engineered to give us warning signs when they are in need of some attention. We are, in fact, supposed to heed those warnings. When your oil goes low, a bright light flashes (best you should attend to this right away). When your brakes go bad, they squeal (and if you ignore the squeal, it becomes a very over-powering grinding sound). When your wheels go bad they squeak, all the time. When you neglect these things, you get stares from your neighbors and grimaces from complete strangers and gasps of horror from the repair guy (they are often appalled at me).

So I’m sitting here, at the wheel shop. Getting the repairs I should have taken the time to fix several weeks ago. I ignored all the warning signs my car was giving me and instead only went for assistance when I was too embarrassed to drive any further and now I am (quite literally) paying the price. And… I’m watching the other people come in and out of here, they know what their cars need. They seem so confident in the announcement of the various afflictions. But me, I’m lowering my head. I’m keeping my eyes on my phone, pretending to read something intently. I’m speaking softly when it’s my turn. I’m aware of my neglect.

We are a lot like our cars I guess… we give off warning signs when we are in need of repair. When you run too far and too fast the day before, your legs refuse to move. When you let a cold linger too long, your cough will remind you to slow down and rest. When your mind can’t possibly juggle any more, it drifts away, reminding you to be still.

We need to pay attention to ourselves. We need to pay attention to each other. A warning light would be best, it could flash brightly telling those around us that we need some attention, we need to slow down, we need to reach out. A warning light for those times we need to let others know. So when they ask that question, “… are you all right?”, they don’t look confounded by our answer — or our lack of an answer — a warning light.

So, I’m sitting here, waiting for my car. Lifting my head long enough to enjoy the beautiful blue sky, enjoying the smell of newly fallen rain, watching the strangers around me talk and mingle and smile at one another. I’m wondering what other repairs are going to be needed. I’m wondering what signals will I be able to see now that I’m finally paying attention to the warning signs. I’m sitting here… figuring it all out.

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I’ve been reading “I Am An Emotional Creature”, by Eve Ensler. I’m not afraid to admit that before I even finished the introduction, I had formed a little crush. It’s basically a letter, to me — or I felt like it was to me. I’ve read that introduction many times. It has penetrated my thoughts. I am not an emotional creature.

Most people who know me — who have spent time with me, who have sat down to a drink with me, who have laughed with me — understand that statement. I don’t talk about feelings or thoughts or dreams — rather I didn’t. Not until recently.

I’ve been thinking about the concept of need lately. What it means to need people in your life. I need my kids. I need their smiles and laughter and tears and anger — I need all of them and I’m pretty sure they need me as well (I like to be needed). But, thinking about people who I “need” in my life has always been easy because there have been so few. I forget people, easily. I forget that I needed them for a while. I’m tired of forgetting.

The last year has been an emotional journey for me — I wish I could say it’s over but new chapters are being written everyday. I like to plan. I love the idea of those sports psychologists who help players see in their mind the way they want an event to happen, mental imagery — I do that. I know where I want my journey to take me, sometimes we can be our biggest stumbling blocks.

I started yoga about 3 1/2 months ago. I had never done yoga before and wasn’t sure if I would be able to handle the “kumbaya” of it. But, I had met some people who said all positive things about it — so I gave it a try. I think yoga might have saved me on several occasions since then. It has saved my health, physically and emotionally. I’ve been on a journey to reclaim myself and yoga has helped me stay focused and centered and reminded me to breathe — I like to be reminded to breathe.

So I thought I would share some things that I’m looking forward to in the upcoming year:

  1. I’m looking forward to a trip to spend time with my dearest friend in the world.
  2. I’m looking forward to relying on myself and being independent again.
  3. I’m looking forward to laughing everyday with my kids.
  4. I’m looking forward to chances to meet new friends.
  5. I’m looking forward to doing yoga.
  6. I’m looking forward to conquering the treadmill.
  7. I’m looking forward to smaller clothes.
  8. I’m looking forward to trips to the lake to feed the ducks.
  9. I’m looking forward to reading some great novels.
  10. I’m looking forward to all my tomorrows.

Now it’s your turn. What are you looking forward to?

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