All the things they said

Oh you have such skinny arms. Such little skinny arms.

It was an off-handed comment to my daughter, while a lab tech was putting a blood pressure cuff on her arm. “Mommy, look how skinny my arms are! They’re weak and skinny.”

Story is seven years old, and has asked me what it really means to be skinny and fat, and which is better, and why do people talk about it so much and why is it not nice to call someone fat? She wanted to read through some piece of trash publication in the Shopper’s Drug Mart line up the other day that was all about losing massive amounts of weight in time for bathing suit season and I wanted to tear my hair out. We try hard to keep these kinds of messages out of our dialogue with the kids but it’s getting harder now that she can read, and has friends at school who, in grade two, already concern themselves with body image. It’s relentless. We don’t even have cable tv or print publications that discuss this kind of thing in our house. I can’t imagine how hard it is to shield them from those messages in addition to all the rest.

And I remember those times when I was that age. I remember all the things people said to me that shaped the way I see myself today.

I have legs like a rugby player.
I have the hairiest legs he’s ever seen.
Why do my feet look like that?
I’ve got one big, beautiful ass.
My hair is crazy.
My lips are so thin!
My hair is so thick.
My hands look like a skeleton’s.
I have perfect nails.
I have beautiful eyes.
What happened to my eyebrows?
I’m not fat, I’m chubby.
I have Fred Flintstone feet.
Oh my god, I have thick ankles, that’s hilarious.
Have I considered getting my teeth fixed?

I could go on, and on… every comment was filed securely in my mind, brought out to use against myself when I feel particularly mopey. The bad outweighing the good. These are just the things I heard directly, never mind all the media messages.

Thigh gaps.
Smiles.
Whiter teeth.
Botox.
Eyebrow tattoos.
Smaller here, larger there.

I don’t want my children experiencing these things. Who does? How do we combat the messaging our kids are bombarded with day in and day out?

Already in grade two my daughter’s friends stage weddings to other kids in class, and discuss how boys can’t marry boys and girls can’t marry girls. My daughter says, “Yes they can!” and they ask if she’s going to marry a girl in an accusatory tone. Why does it matter? Why does she have to listen to them tell her her legs are hairy? Why is she concerned about her skinny little arms? Why does she have to be thinking about these things at only seven years old?

It feels like a full time job ninja-fighting off the world of negativity, but I’ll never give up this fight. I want to instil in my children the confidence that they are exactly as they ought to be, as is every other body.

ninja

But it’s so hard when all the things people have said to me still echo through my mind.

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Alex

3 thoughts on “All the things they said

  1. It’s a daunting task, but strong, smart kids are strong and smart.

    They have good parents.

    They see the truth.

    They live it! 😀

  2. It is SO HARD. I come from a culture where every negative thing said is supposedly said with love and to teach. As a child I used it as that but now I’m an adult it haunts me. I hate it they do that then continue to overfeed my youngest because it’s cute. It’s to the point where she hears “you’ve got a big tummy” and says it to grown-ups because she is hearing it as a term of endearment. When I’m done doing her hair she says, “I’m beautiful now?” I always say “You’re always beautiful. We just want to get the hair out of your face.” I try to use “healthy” with mine. And even have said, “I don’t want you to be a good girl. I want you to make good choices.” My boy doesn’t hear it as much but the girl does. I try to use better words with her but my parents are their daycare and that’s taking some work. It is a lot of work but hopefully it works out for the best. My children aren’t in school yet but they have never heard otherwise about gay or straight marriages. They just know that two people love each other and that’s that. C even said, “Uncle Jayson loves Uncle Romer just like you love daddy!” That’s right baby!

  3. The daycare instructors greet my kids EVERY GD MORNING with “you’re so cute today!” or :I love your dress!” or “That’s an interesting look.” (That last one when she’s chosen a Halloween costume or some other unconventional outfit… and it’s never said nicely). It drives me BATTY. Today I finally said “And she’s SMART, too!” and they both thought I was making a joke. Oh, my aching heart.

    (I have a hairy back, by the way. I know, because a boy named Jordan told me so in Grade 9).

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