When you are a 12-year-old girl, some of the most hurtful words that can be thrown your way are fat and ugly. Now imagine you are that 12-year-old girl, and it is somebody who you love and trust who hurts you with such words. …
When I was at this ripe impressionable age, I attended a family dinner at my grandparents’ house.
At some point throughout supper, my grandpa announces to everyone at the table how fat he feels I am becoming.
I was stunned, speechless and, most of all, hurt.
In that moment, I wanted to scream words of hate towards him.
I wanted to run away and bury myself in the towering spruce trees in the back yard, never to have judging eyes look upon me again. And I wanted to cry.
The latter felt the most plausible and just before the stunned moment of disbelief ended and the waterworks began, my auntie came to my rescue. She patted her father on his very robust belly and replied to his jest in a similarly insensitive tone, “Oh Dad, I wouldn’t be talking if I were you!”
The occupants of the table began to laugh, to which I joined in tentatively, and soon all was forgotten.
Well, forgotten by my family that is. As for the 12-year-old girl sitting at that kitchen table, it would take a very long time to learn how to grow a healthy self-confidence thereafter.
Now in present days, I try not to think in terms of fat and skinny. I want to see healthy people. I want to see people eating well-balanced meals, being active, and having an overall happy outlook on life.
So obviously this is how I would like to raise my children. I am not so naïve to think their self-assurance will not waver in times of adolescents and, of course, the high school years. But I do want to ardently assure that it is not from their family, the people who love them most, which they begin to question their confidence.
Recently Sophie has been losing some of her baby fat. I have noticed several family members approaching her and saying, “Oh Sophie! You are looking so skinny.” As if this is some kind of badge of honour. She is three, for god sakes!
I’ve seen mothers at the grocery store telling their daughters that they cannot buy the chips in aisle 3 because that will make them fat.
And I ask myself why does the word ‘fat’ have to be brought into it? Teach those babes that it is best to be healthy, because that will leave us with longer and more promising lives.
There are women I know who are stressing themselves out over how much fat and sugar their toddlers are eating, not because of the unnatural byproducts of the item, but because of the high amount of calories it contains.
And then to completely top it off, I will nonchalantly ask these women what in fact the definition of a calorie is. … And they cannot seem to conjure up an answer.
By continuously preaching to our children or in front of our children on all the dreadfulness that is fat and ugly, we are preconditioning them to a lifetime of faltering self-esteem and unhealthy life choices.
I tell my son he is handsome because he most definitely is, but I certainly do not leave it at that. He is bright, funny and one hell of a great dancer! My daughter is not only beautiful, but she is hilarious and a great story teller, too, which will be infinitely useful in later years. (Take it from me!)
I look at my precious children of five and three and do not want to do anything to them in these young years to cause a future filled with hardships due to low self-esteem and backwards values of worth in this world.
So instead of priding Sophie on how skinny she has become, I will give her a high five when she eats all her veggies. I will pride Lars on his love of the outdoors and encourage him to spend many hours exploring nature.
I will teach my kids that looks do not come before personality, despite what many cynical critics of today may say.
I grew up with tainted ideas of beauty and self-worth and I know the struggles I stressed with in living with these insane ideals. I have only just recently found out what it is I truly value in life and that is health and happiness.
And that is what I want my children to live by from their very beginning.
Lindsay Brown is a Sylvan Lake mother of two and freelance columnist.