Monday, September 1, 2014

30 Days, 30 Reasons, Day 1: My Sons and the "F" Word

"Mom, I'm going to have to say the "F" word and you're going to be mad!"

Nolan and I were lying on the couch talking about going back to school, and he was discussing some of the teachers at his school.  I asked him what he knew about them and he told me about how one of them looked like his teacher from last year, with long blonde hair.  He said he hopes he gets that teacher, and I asked why, thinking it was just because he is reminded of his beloved teacher.  And then he hesitated to describe another teacher, and the line above came out of his mouth.

Fat.  The "F" word is fat.

In his 7 years of life I have managed to instill in my son first that being fat is a bad thing, and then that it's not ok to call people fat.  Talk about confusing the poor kid.

Let's start with the first half of that sentence.  How many times have I said "Oh, God, I am so fat!", or "I can't eat that or I will get fat!" in front of or even to my kids?  How many times have I given them the impression that the reason mommy exercises is because I don't want to be fat?  Been caught looking in the mirror and calling myself fat in a sad, derisive way?  How can I not expect my kids to think that being fat is something of a character flaw in a person, something that should be fought against and avoided at all costs?

And then, the second half.  I tell him that we don't call people fat because it's not nice - further teaching them that it must be something flawed about the person we shouldn't point out.  I try to amend that to explain that everyone looks different, and just as we don't judge people for the colour of their eyes, skin, or hair, we don't judge them by their size.  People are all the same inside, and what matters is how they behave and how they treat others, not how they look on the outside.  I'm the mother of a child born with a facial defect, for heaven's sake, how can I not have this one down?

But my words to them and my treatment of myself create confusion in their little kid brains.  Mommy dislikes herself for being fat, so doesn't it make sense that we shouldn't like fat people?  That being fat is some kind of flaw?

I've already started to remind myself to say "Mommy is exercising to be healthy", and "We eat these foods and not those foods because it makes our bodies healthy.  But the habit of looking down on myself for how I look has to stop if I want my kids to have any hope of growing up with a healthy understanding of who you are mattering more than how you look.

It's not just girls who need to grow up with healthy body image and an understanding that how much they weigh doesn't define their worth - although a lot of the focus of this kind of campaign against body shaming is on the female population.  It's my job as a mother of boys to not only teach them to see their own bodies in a healthy way, but to one day look at the women they may date or marry and see beauty in the person, not the dress size.

It's up to all of us to raise kids who focus on being healthy rather than on being thin.

Reason Number 1, Day 1: To ensure that my kids understand that it's not about being skinny, it's about being healthy, and that healthy doesn't equal skinny.  To get rid of the "F" word as a method of describing myself, and as any kind of measure of how much I deserve to be loved.

Day 1: No More "F" Word.

Curious what this is about?  Read about my 30 Days, 30 Reasons, No Scale Challenge!

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