I talk and complain a lot about my weight. Some weeks I am die hard determined to fix it. Other weeks I am resigned that ‘it is what it is’ and that life is too short to be obsessed with the size of my shorts.
Recently my cousin forwarded me a blog article and a note. The note told me that she had always thought I was beautiful. The article talked about the effects of a mother complaining of her looks, her weight, etc and the effect that it had on her young daughter. One particular thought…not a direct quote…has resonated with me and some of the women I shared it with, “I always thought you were beautiful until you told me you were fat, ugly and horrible. I was 7.” Ouch.
My daughter is built just like me. Or like I was. She’s perfect. She’s strong. She’s fit. One day she will have attractive, womanly curves. At 10 she laments about her big legs and big booty to which I say, “You are not fat. You are strong. You are beautiful,” and I believe it. I mean it. Yet in the next breath I am talking about how fat and ugly I am. I whine about my size, my shape and my overall appearance. Those words stay with her long after my positive ones do. Why? Why is it easier to believe the bad over the good? I don’t know. But it is.
That blog made me think. On one hand I want to be a good role model for my daughters and model good health and physical fitness. On the other hand I want to be a good role model for my daughters and model confidence and self-acceptance. I don’t want them letting a size or a weight dictate how they feel about themselves. I’ve been done that road. I’ve struggled with a life-altering obsession with food and weight. I don’t want that for them.
This summer has been the YEAR OF THE DAUGHTER. My 10 year old had a very, very rough 4th grade year. Her confidence was battered. Her spirit a little bruised. This summer she’s on an All-Star Softball team and has earned her spot as the positive, cheerleader for her team. In addition she has worked hard and has surprised us all by also being a part of our county’s all-star swim team. Next weekend she will compete in a state meet for medals in 2 relay events. Her confidence is back. Her spirit-both the good and the bad side of that sassiness-is back. I’ve been behind her, cheering her on the entire way. Our busy lives let me to do something: accept who and what I am at this moment. With an event every night of the week I can’t fit in those zumba classes or those walks that I need to be taking. I am not that kind of mother that can prepare fresh, healthy meals in a snap. I’ve accepted that too. I am what I am. I am not what I am not.
In this acceptance I’ve quit whining every 5 minutes about my weight, my looks and my size. I am not happy about the way I look. I still slip up when it’s time to go to the pool or don some shorts. Now, however, I am quick to not say, “I am so fat!” but to say things like, “I am not as strong as I can be or as fit as I can be.” It’s a subtle difference but one I hope my daughter will understand.
This summer I will slip into my bathing suit with the skirt. I’ll put shirts under my t-shirts to soothe out the bumps. I’ll wear longer shorts. It’s okay. Because although I am a big-girl wearing a big-girl bathing suit-I am still at the pool or at the lake with my babies. The t-shirts may need a shirt under them but they are t-shirts proclaiming my pride at being a softball mom or a swim mom. I am willing to bet my girl never notices the bumps but she does notice that I am wearing a t-shirt with her name and picture on it. Sure the shorts are a size that I never, ever thought I would wear but hey, I am wearing them to cheer on a daughter who is at the top of her game. She doesn’t know the (or care) about the size of my shorts. She just knows that I am there and I am obnoxious in my support of her.
I don’t pretend that this moment of clarity is long lasting. It’s a brief moment of confidence. A brief interlude of acceptance, if you will. But I’ll embrace it while I can because I don’t want to be the one that tells my daughter I am not pretty. I don’t want my words to be the words she hears when she looks in the mirror. I never, ever want her to judge her worth on a number—any kind of number. So, in the advice of my parents, “Lead by example.”
May my examples be: to make the most of the moment, be present and loud, strive for strength but don’t always consider yourself weak and to listen and believe when someone tells you that you are beautiful.