Parenting is hard. These children of mine are ALWAYS watching me. Always. Everything I do (or don’t do) gets noticed, noted, and often, repeated or mimicked. I’m not going to lie: that is scary, y’all! As parents, we strive to teach our babies to be good people, who do good things and make good choices, with good hearts. But even the best of people have bad moments, moments we don’t want anyone to see or know about, moments we wish had never happened, moments we definitely don’t want our children to learn from. I have those moments all the time, unfortunately, and the Minis are learning from me whether I mean for them to or not. Even though I know this to be true, it still takes me by surprise every time I see them do something that I am certain they picked up from me. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could find a way for them to only mimic the good we do? In the last month, I’ve noticed that they are learning to love (themselves and others) in the exact same way that I do. Let me explain:
A few weeks ago, on one of our last morning rides to school, Angel May looked at me and asked, “Momma, do you think I’m fat?”
Where in the world did that come from?!
I responded the way any good momma would, “What?! Of course not!!! You’re beautiful, baby! Why would you ask that?!”
“Well, because Twerp called me that, so I was wondering if you thought that, if it’s true.”
Obviously, his name is not really Twerp, but considering how he made my girl feel about herself, I think the pseudonym is fitting.
Again, I responded the way any good momma would, “What?! Well, he’s a twerp! Don’t you dare listen to him! You know what they say, huh? Third grade boys only call you names when they like you. I bet he has a crush on you. I mean, you’re so awesome, who wouldn’t?”
I expected a smile, a laugh, something. Nope. She was still serious-faced and brooding over Twerp’s hurtful words and whether they held any truth in them. She finally said, “But I am a lot bigger than I was before the accident. And I have this little roll that hangs over my pants now.”
She is bigger. She does have a little roll. But good lord, trust me, the girl is no where near fat. I struggled for a moment to regain my wits because I was so shocked and frustrated by the whole conversation. Finally, I tried again,
“Angel May, darlin, you are bigger than you were, but that’s because you’re growing up, not because you’re fat. And I see the little roll, but it does not make you fat. It’s there because you had to wear that back brace for a while and you didn’t play as much. If you don’t like it, don’t worry, it will most likely go away as soon as you’re able to play like you used to. You are beautiful. Don’t listen to Twerp. You’re beautiful. Period.”
“But you always say your little roll makes you fat. If yours makes you fat, then mine makes me fat too.”
Double whoa. Sigh
What have I done? And how do I undo it? My silly, uncalled for, typical female self-loathing had caused this beautiful, inspiring, perfectly incredible girl, whom God gave me to guide, to question her value, to not love herself. Oh the guilt, friends. The instant guilt and regret nearly did me in. Who’s the twerp now, huh?
I do say things like that all the time. I was always really skinny until I had my thyroid removed and since then I’ve struggled with my weight and accepting that I probably won’t ever be that small again. But even before the weight, I’ve always had a hard time accepting compliments from others. Instead of following one with a, “Thank you,” I usually dismiss whatever they’ve said, or negate it with a cruel joke at my own expense. I know what you’re thinking. I’m thinking it too. Why would I ever do that to myself?! I don’t know. I just do. Compliments have always made me uncomfortable. But yes, I hear how crazy it sounds when I explain it to y’all. I had no idea she was listening to all that. I never imagined she would internalize it and do the same to herself. Man, that really hurts my heart.
I have no idea if I handled it properly, but I went with the only thing I know to do when it’s clear that I have made a terrible mistake – I got real with her. I apologized for being a terrible example to her. I asked her to forgive me for not teaching her to love herself, just the way she is. I admitted to her that I struggle with loving myself the way I am, but now that I know she hears that, I will pray for some help in that area. I explained to her that there’s actually nothing wrong with being society’s idea of fat, as long as you’re healthy. I told her that I try to eat well and work out because I want to be smaller, but really that’s not why I should do it. I should do it because I have the genetic code for some serious problems if I don’t do it. I took a deep breath and told her that starting right then she and I were going to love ourselves, just the way God made us, and that if either of us heard the other self-loathing or giving any credence to what the haters have to say about us, we would keep each other in check, with love and encouragement.
It’s been a few weeks and I haven’t been 100% successful, but I am trying. I sincerely hope she hears that too.
P.S ~ Part 2 is coming soon and about a different moment, one where I realized what I had been inadvertently teaching Super Man about loving others and being in love – Yikes!