Like Mother, Like Daughter

6 comments

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.

6 comments on “Like Mother, Like Daughter”

  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. Love this post, Elise! I’m struggling to find a good way to go about it also and haven’t really addressed the issue – I just really monitor what they’re eating at this point in hopes they’ll have a palate for healthier foods when they get older. I think maybe teach that LOVING yourself also means CARING for yourself. You take care of yourself by feeding your body healthy foods, getting regular activity/exercise – just like keeping your regular Drs. and Dentist visits. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have some treats here and there or have a lazy pajama day. I think the goal (at least for me) is to teach my kids to take care of their bodies, love themselves and recognize that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. I recently bought a book “What I like about me” that I’m hoping will help them establish their self worth before they get too much media influence, etc.

  3. Elise, this is beautifully written and such an important topic to address. I spent years as a personal trainer and hubby and I had a fitness radio show where we regularly told people what they should be eating and how they should be exercising…and now I’m at a point where I’m also confused. I don’t want to teach my children that some foods are “bad” and others are “good” ~ I want them to be able to enjoy ALL foods with gusto and gratitude, not shame or guilt. I hear you in the mixed messages we may be sending. I hear you….

  4. I love this piece since I worry that my children will face the ever present body issues we all do. I am not overweight but still grapple with how I look. I worry it will translate to my son, and future children. Such a thought provoking piece. Love it.

  5. I think the message can be that you love yourself enough to make sure your body is healthy, that you move it as best and as often as you can, and that you are more than your appearances.

    Caring for your health so you can be around for a long, long time is a wonderful way to show you love yourself and those who care about you. I don’t think there’s any mixed message. It’s not that you love yourself as long as you avoid sugar, eat your veggies and exercise regularly. The message should be that you love yourself enough to do those things.

    I wish you luck on your journey to a fitter self!

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