Like Mother, Like Daughter – XP

Original here: http://ctworkingmoms.com/2012/10/04/like-mother-like-daughter/

Genetics have nothing on my family. 

 

My wife and son? They don’t share an iota of genetic material or heritage and yet, they have the same expressions, personalities, and often finish each other’s sentences – they share the same temper, too.  And is it just me or do they kind of have the same smile?

 

The story is the same with my oldest daughter and I.  Feisty, bossy, opinionated and fiercely independent.  Oh yes, you can spot us from a mile away.

[photo credit]

She was probably a red-head in a past life.

A lot of this feels like fate.  A match made in heaven. 

It’s neat to be able to see so much of yourself in your child, but of course all of us know what a responsiblity it is too.  As I see the old saying ‘Like Mother, Like Daughter’ playing out before my eyes, I’m reminded of what an important role I have here.  My children, my daughters especially, are always watching and learning from me.

Naturally, this encourages me to be my best self in front of them.  There are more slip ups than I care to admit; but, for the most part, I do a decent job of tucking away the biting sarcasm, overly critical nature, social awkwardness, and cookie addiction.  Well, about that last one. That one’s not so easy to hide.  Because, as you can see, I’m fat.

I’ve been fat basically every day of my life.  Its a family trait that has haunted me and has led me to feel shame, embarrassment, and hopelessness.

Then, I became a mother, and I found a strength and determination inside of myself that I never had known before.  I don’t accept ‘can’t’ from my children and I wasn’t willing to accept it from myself any more.  I started eating better (including completing a Whole30), exercising, and focusing on my health the way I would want my children to focus on theirs. I am wearing a smaller dress size and am prepping to run my first 5k in a few weeks.

Getting fit as a family

I was – am – determined to end this family legacy with me.  I don’t want my children to live in a body they are not comfortable with or struggle with food issues as I do.  I make sure to talk about activity, feeling good, and eating healthy rather than “dieting” or “losing weight,” so it’s all good…right?  

We visited the Science Center as a family this weekend and considering my personal focus of late, I was especially interested in checking out the healthy living exhibit.  I sat down with my two oldest at game in which the kids “fed” disks of different foods to the person on the computer screen.  I imagine it was intended to teach them about healthy food choices and portions.  They got a bit overzealous about the feeding and when they had put in one disk too many, the computer woman’s stomach, hips, and thighs grew. (Frankly, she now looked a lot like me.) “Oh no! She had too much and her belly got big!” my oldest exclaimed.  To my 6-year-old, the message was clear: she got fat so we lost the game.

Wait, what?? My (not-so-inner) feminist was outraged.  We need to embrace bodies of all shapes and sizes – none being any better or worse than any other! We need to stop focusing on looks! And why does it have to be a woman on the screen, dammit?!

But considering the energy I’ve been putting in of late on changing my own size, I left that museum feeling like a pretty big [no pun intended] hypocrite. Was my health-quest sending the same message as that stupid game?

Shortly after, I came across this article. I read it, tears in my eyes, hanging on the truth of every word.

So as we sit there together, shoulder to shoulder, thigh to thigh, I pray for her to be smart. I pray for her to be strong. I pray for her to find friends, work she loves, a partner who adores her, and for the world not to beat out of her the things that make her who she is, for her life to be easy, and for her to have the strength to handle it when it’s not. And still, always, I pray that she will never struggle as I’ve struggled, that weight will never be her cross to bear. She may not be able to use the word in our home, but I can use it in my head. I pray that she will never get fat.

Yes, it’s true. I hope they never struggle as I’ve struggled.

Now I’m more confused than ever.  What exactly is the message I am trying to send? You should love yourself as long as you avoid sugar, eat your veggies, and exercise regularly? No…that’s not it.

How do we reconcile the two, equally dangerous, epidemics of obesity and body-hatred for our daughters? Where is the middle ground between them?

What would I have said in the moment Ms. Weiner describes?

I don’t know.

When I pray, I don’t necessarily pray that my daughters stay thin – I just pray that they are happy.  But what I do know, having lived life in this body, that happiness would come a bit easier if they did.

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5 Comments to “Like Mother, Like Daughter – XP”

  1. For whatever it’s worth:

    Both my parents struggled with weight when they were younger, then as adults became both ultra-conscientious about their eating and weight-obsessed. Both watch my, and other family members’ weight closely – when they catch up with relatives they haven’t seen in awhile, they always comment on if the relatives have lost/gained weight. If they gained, it’s always mentioned with a touch of disgust.

    Anyway, that’s a long-winded way of saying that I grew up with a strong emphasis on body shape/size, and as someone who is both tall and ‘big boned,’ I always felt like my body was too big.

    Feminism, and fat acceptance blogs helped me separate health from body size. I eat a ton of fruits and vegetables, and try to run 3-4 miles at least a few times a week. I recently cut out refined sugar from my diet. I also never, ever weigh myself, stopped counting calories, and refuse to engage in “I’m/she’s/he’s so fat” kinds of conversations because I think they’re bad for people in general, but especially for women. For me, feeling (mostly) at peace with my body meant focusing on my health, trying not to worry to much about how I look or what I weigh, and spreading the word that there are big and small people who are unhealthy, and there are big and small people who are healthy.

    Good luck!

  2. That response is worth A LOT. I absolutely love your perspective, thank you so much for taking your time to share it.

  3. Oh, E. My heart hurts that this has been such a struggle for you. You are wise. You are strong. You will bring up wise and strong daughters.

    My own experience with weight has been seriously troubled, to say the least. Having been called a “whale,” among other colorful things, by my very thin mother when I was little really messed with my body image. (And when I look at photos now, I see I was a beautiful child, even if I wasn’t as thin as my mother.) I went on to become very ill with eating disorders; I called an ambulance myself when, at a whopping 70lbs, I fell when I was getting out of bed and couldn’t get up. (Yes, I still lived at home – I was 16. No, no one ever said anything to me about my weight loss. Apparently, being fat was a problem, but being skin and bones and near death was fine.)

    I know now I’ll never have a healthy body image. I mostly ignore my weight because it’s so easy for me to fall back into obsessive patterns about it. I’ll always think I’m fat – I thought I was fat when I weighed 70 lbs – so my weight/what I see in the mirror can’t be a measure to me. It took me a long time to figure that out.

    To me, what it boils down to is that bodies come in all kinds of beautiful shapes and sizes, just like skin and hair come in beautiful different colors and shades. We should learn to honor ourselves and others instead of creating unattainable standards of “beauty”. As long as we’re doing – trying – our best to be healthy… That’s what we should focus on. Let’s eat well, exercise, and be happy with who we are.

    ❤ to you, my friend.

  4. I wish you luck on this journey. Note: These pics are too cute!!!!

  5. At our house, we emphasize “taking care of our bodies and minds.” From eating, exercising, sleeping, playing, etc. We talk about how our bodies feel when we don’t take care of our bodies and minds and how if feels when we do.

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