I don’t know wtf is going on with media messaging in the world where my third grade daughter is worried that she’s fat.
I’ve tried responses that concentrate on what our bodies can do (can I run? Can I swim? Can i climb the monkey bars? Can i play tennis with my friends? And karate too? Yay! I’m healthy!) and how our doctor says she is perfectly healthy every year at her physical. That honestly our DOCTOR is the person who can tell us if there’s an issue about weight, and no one else. She’ll agree for a few days but then it’s like she doesn’t hear it at all, she comes home saying my belly is fat or my belly is big. That this girl or that girl at school says her belly is fat (as in talking about herself, not my daughter’s; it’s the self loathing talk that’s bumming me out—and i know these girls they are little growing toothpicks).
I’ve tried to normalize that bellies are just bellies and bending over makes our bellies look different, to no avail. I’ve monitored the way I speak about my body around her to make sure I’m not passing along negative body imaging to her. I say I exercise so I can be healthy and live a long life (not that I’m trying to lose weight or trying to be skinny, and that’s fine if those are personal goals out there in the world, just not trying to put those world’s expectations on her). Urggggg.
So in the moment, I resorted to: I can’t stop you from saying negative things about yourself DD2, even though I know the words aren’t true. I need you to say some different words for yourself though. So from now on, any time you say something negative, like my belly is fat, I want you to say something positive, too. Like, I can read chapter books. I can swim all afternoon. She half heartedly repeated these words. And was like
awwww, do I have to?
And I was like: if I catch you saying negative things about yourself without saying something positive, no playing games on the IPAD.
Her (eyes as big at saucers): For how long?
Her: OKAY MOMMY.
I recalled going through this a little bit with DD1, but not to the constant repeat loop that seems to be with DD2. And, she still bounces around and plays with her friends, like today she swam for two hours straight in the pool, just venting about the negative body talk that she’s taken on. Is it parroting? Does she really think this? Probably a bit of both. And IPAD threatening was not my best moment, but I fail all the time so just add it to the tally of shit I do wrong. Tomorrow is another damn day.
Day 2: So after a somewhat good night's sleep, I felt a little better about this being a marathon type of conversation/issue and not a here's a few steps to solve the challenge type of situation. So okay, life, I'll take this challenge, dang it. One of the silver linings out of the conversations of late is this: she actually talks to me about it. she feels safe enough with me to tell me her worries and fears, so I need to be less judgmental about her worries and fears and more supportive of how to be a positive force in her life. I'll keep up with positive talk and will lesson the IPAD threats, and understand that if we still struggle with messaging as a 20, 30, 40 year olds (my goal is that by 50 i just wont gaf, i'm pretty close to IDGAF, but i've been conditioned by the same media messaging), then of course this is going to seep into an 8 year old's realm, whether i like it or not. p.s. she brought it up again this morning when i was braiding her hair. she was hesitant to say the word 'fat,' i think in part because she didn't want me to harsh on feminist theory at 6am? LOL. so i said, honey, i realize you have your thoughts and feelings about this, and the world is going to say one thing, and we have to say other things back. so what would you like to say back? i can swim? she said yes. i can read all the books? she said yes. and i said, anything else? and she said: i can run. ❤
And…my heart melted.
Lastly, an extra:
Gillette embraced the Be the Best a Man can Be to mean more than brawny, uninformed masculinity, and I actually teared up. Of course there’s backlash from the trolls and threats to boycott, which means it struck a nerve. You can see it here.
I know, I know, I teared up at a SHAVING commercial. But I teared up because this mainstream, commercial (usually money-grubbing and not giving a f!@$) world has embraced the idea of a BETTER way to be. I imagined how different my experiences would have been if I had grown up in this one, and maybe that’s why I teared up. A hope that it the world can be better.
Because world, I **need** you to be a better place for my two little girls who are growing up fast.