Friday, July 11, 2014

Raising Daughters with Body and Smart Positivity

I think I'm going to write another book...One that probably no one will read, but I think it's time to get a mom's perspective on making the choices on messaging we give our little girls about their bodies, and their smarts.  It's not easy.  I've tried so hard to make the right choices about what I "said" to my child and what I "showed" my child about body confidence and smarts confidence.

I put the effort into helping her develop her brain and spend just about equal efforts making sure she eats well, and enough to keep growing and thriving and being smart, and does enough to keep her body moving and getting strong.  I'd be lying if I told you that I also try to model body confidence and a complete lack of body shame when in fact, I carry more of it than even I dare to admit at the age of 41.  It shouldn't matter.  In the grand scheme of things, it doesn't matter and I know it.  But I'm also acutely aware that what we say, who says it and how is what ultimately resonates and sticks with us for a lifetime.

I remember precisely the one and only time I was ever told by someone that I was "stunning" as a kid.  How frightening is that?  I could tell you precisely the time of year, approximately how old I was and who said it.  I could even tell you what general time of day it was.  EVERY OTHER MESSAGE I got as a child, whether it was spoken or subtext, sent me precisely the opposite message.  So often in fact that it has literally overshadowed my life, lifestyle choices and self confidence, and so much so that this singular moment in my childhood still shines out as if highlighted centre stage with a spot light.  How I wish in the constant drone of all the other messages I heard growing up, that it had been the one message I heard loudest.  Why did it have to be that I was 40, before I believed I could have been exactly what he saw when he saw it, instead of what everyone else told/showed me?

And the truth of the matter is, no one in my life truly did or said anything out of anything but love.  They worried about me, like I worry about my own daughter.  They only wanted what was best for me, but had no other idea of how to share that with me.  And the truth of the matter is also that they were affected by the very same messages they gave me.  They did their best.  Just like I am doing and millions of other very doting and conscientious moms out there in the big bad world.

Body positivity has to be modeled first and foremost.  And when you're raising a daughter mindfully, you recognize that approaching the messages of body positivity with vigilance and rebellion and passion fueled language isn't the best approach.  It absolutely has to be done loudly and proudly and visibly, and thank GOD there are men and women both out there beginning to fight this fight with vigor.  But when you're raising a daughter and you're alone with your family at home, you need to show her through your own self worth, your own confidence and your own bravado to ignore the words and ideals of others.  And let me tell you, this is nothing short of impossible to get 100% right.  And I'll also say, that no amount of "psycho babble bullshit" is going to help us raise our daughters better than good old fashioned instinct.  These are things only active and fully focused mom's with real lives and jobs and personal issues can speak to.

So I'm going to write another book.  One that hopefully brings a fresh set of non-medicinal thoughts to an issue that's at it's core, a gutteral view of how to navigate raising an equally mind and body positive contributor to society.  One that hopefully helps other Mom's like me who struggle daily, find a way to minimize and cope with a life long hurt locker full of shame and body inequity, while learning how not to do it in a way that makes them a vigilante or a target in this hate stoked society we live in.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Fat Phobia

This morning, one of my worst parenting nightmares began to take shape in real life.

My daughter told me someone said she had a fat face.  My 30 lb bone rack of a 3.5 year old beauty has been the brunt of fat jokes, and it's hard not to internalize it, blame myself, and curse the world that being fat is like the lowest common denominator - the worst kind of insult that could be thrown at anyone.

I have done everything in my power to eliminate the word fat from our household.  Not out of denial, but out of a clear understanding that it doesn't actually represent the people it applies to.  And clearly out of the hope that by taking away some of it's presence, takes away some of it's power, and hopefully allows me to raise my child in a way that develops an appreciation for all people, regardless of what they look like period.  Full stop.

By all accounts, though I am morbidly obese, I'm pretty frigging healthy.  I'm not diabetic.  I've never had a heart attack.  I don't have some of those other disorders commonly associated with obesity like high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  I do have aches, pains and generally feel better when I'm lighter, but I'm one of those people who will never be 150 lbs.  It's not in my genetic code to be that way.

I've taken every possible step to lose the weight, out of fear that my daughter would draw bullying based on the simple fact that her mother is fat.  I know how kids are.  I had surgery last year and have lost 40 lbs.  The big win for me has been that I've sustained the loss.  That's huge for a woman who seemed to be an ever increasing size without even blinking an eye.  I cook 90 percent of our meals from scratch and limit our intakes of preservatives and chemicals...I'm wholly focused on making sure that the food that is brought into this house is generally healthy but also not otherwise punitive.  And the reason I haven't lost more than 40 lbs in a year despite my surgery is that I'm keenly aware that I want to exemplify healthy, balanced and non-punitive eating behaviours for my otherwise very petite daughter.  I'm aware with every bite that I take, she's getting either a message that will lead to her own potential eating disorders.  So I'm trying very hard to lose the weight while being as "normal" as I possibly can be.

And still the thing I hear this weekend is that she has a fat face, isn't pretty, or she's drawing fat mermaids.  And I can't stop it.  I can only tell her that telling someone they are fat, isn't nice.  That the other people saying she is fat are simply jealous, and they aren't worth her time or effort.  But the voices have begun, and I have no idea how to protect my child from it and all the ripple effects of every single possible choice I can make.

I'm open to ideas though.  While I'm praying that how I've handled it already has been the right way to do it.

PS. It was an oversight not to call out that part of my strategy in addressing this at home is about self love and body appreciation of all kinds.  My response has been to guide her that all people are beautiful and have infinite value, no matter their shape, colour or appearance.  But speaking louder than her peers and the little voices that are developing in her own mind is already proving to be a challenge.  Fingers crossed I'm louder for a really long time...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

He's a Keeper, She's a Keeper. Wouldn't You Love to be a Keeper too?

I always thought I liked the idea of being a "kept" woman.  I seriously did.  And that may make me sound waif-y or stupid or otherwise snooty, but it's the honest to god truth.  In many ways, I still do.

I saw a valentine's card photo online that said "I'm Keeping You".

At once I was stricken by the overtones of the phrase "being kept".  In my mind it was always about being taken care of, and having an opportunity to be the domestic goddess we all know I actually am.  But in my mind's eye, that never worked with the woman as bread winner, and it certainly never led me to think of it as though I would be kept like a pet.  The dog that wags it's tail at the door waiting eagerly for it's "master" to return home.

I gotta say, domestic goddess or not, in my household even if I were to be a kept woman, would not have resulted in me greeting my husband at the door with drink in hand, smile on face and dressed to the nines.  Then again, it's highly unlikely in any situation, that I'd be greeting someone like Ward Cleaver - suit and tie, briefcase in hand, either.

I think it's also because kept or not, I never ever envisioned myself living the luxe life without contributing my fair share to the overall productivity of the home or family.  If I were kept, I'd be probably selling tupperware, building a business, or working my arse off to maintain house and home and garden...looking after seniors and all that OTHER stuff I already do in addition to my full time paying job.

And so, yeah, I subscribe to the "keeper" theories when it comes to finding the ones you love, but no one should ever approach a relationship with anyone like it shouldn't be hard work.  Loving someone is as much a choice as it is a feeling, once you get through that whole infatuation and lust stuff.  And working hard to make it work is pretty intense sometimes.  But like everything else, when you choose to keep with someone, the great times are the most wonderful moments in life.  And any sacrifice you have made to have that, well, those moments make each one worth it's weight in gold and so much more.

So as valentines approaches, and my husband and I officially get past the rocky stretch of road we've just gone through, I'm glad I kept him, and I'm really glad he kept me.  And I'm glad to have a partner in life, as opposed to a pet.  Pet's NEVER clean up their own mess.  At least my husband helps with the dishes!

I love you this much sweetheart.  Forever and Always!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Time Flies

The past week has been quite the emotional roller coaster here.  My husband has been violently ill, to the point of scaring me, and it's looking more and more like the reason for it is stress.  I'm afraid of how much of the stress he's feeling is my own doing, but am also afraid not to intervene and try as hard as I can to pressure him to let up at work and let things start really breaking.  I mean for real, break til they can't legally enforce any more.

I want to beg him to take a leave of absence, knowing that might cause him more stress than not doing it, and I want to beg him to put this house up for sale and start looking at trailer park solutions.  I know we can't keep going the way we're both going forever.

Which brings me to my own work.  It's making my eyes twitch and giving me a chronic migraine.  Yep.  I've inherited quite the crap storm and I'm left trying to sort it out, streamline it, fix it just so I can figure out a way to co-exist with it...all before I lose my own marbles, and need another crazy sabbatical of my own.

Add to this that last week I registered my baby girl for junior kindergarten and I'm left emotionally drained as a dried up grape.  Only the raisin that's left is pretty bitter.  She is sooo very excited to be going to big kid school, she even started doing her letters and numbers in high gear.  She's already told me she wants to wear a dress on her first day of school, and daily she checks out their progress on her new school.  You see her school is being built right at the end of our street, and that means she can watch as construction progresses...many days she can't understand why it's just not done already.

I on the other hand, as excited as I am to see her happy and diving in with both feet, am emotionally devastated at the thought that my last chances to be a stay at home mom have come and gone.  Literally, there's no way, unless I was choosing to home school her, that I will have that "opportunity" to be the kind of mom I always wanted to be.  I used to dream that I'd stay home with my kids til they were in school full time.  Then I'd go back to work.  And that was when full time school didn't start til kids were 6 years old.  She's  just going to turn 4 in June and will be going to school full time in September.  Unless I win millions so that I can take the summer with her, this is never going to happen for me at all.  It makes me all the happier that I was able to take the full maternity leave.  It was worth chewing up 6 years of my retirement to take that year.  Thank GOD I did that much.  She still snuggles with me, and holds my face in her tiny hands and tells me that I'm a good mommy.  And that fills me.  And her stellar behaviour, politeness and caring for others shows me every single day that I'm doing right by her.  But my god how I wish that I could have done this for her.  Been a 100% visible, dedicated and fully attentive mommy.

Every kid deserves that.  And every mom deserves to be able to do that for their kids without pushing themselves to the brink of death trying to be super mom, breadwinner, housekeeper, and CEO.  Exhaustion kills...My husband and I, and our grey skin tones are virtual proof of this.  I guess at least if we keel over tomorrow, our child will remember snippets of awesomeness, and will hear the stories of how we killed ourselves trying to give her the best we could.  That's reassuring for kids, right?

In the meantime, my little monkey has become a butterfly ready to leap off the leaves and float through the sky.  She's buoyant and light, and graceful, and sweet.  This world is changing because she smiled at it.  And she's about to be let loose, to get her footing and show the world what she's capable of.  I'm infinitely proud of her.  Of the person she is and the woman she will become.  I'm so terribly sad I've not been able to soak up 1000% of her moments the last 2 years.  And so thoroughly grateful for the hundreds of moments I've been given in place of them.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Long time no write

Like everyone else, to describe life as chaotic isn't any kind of overstatement most days.

And honestly in the past few weeks following the Christmas break, it's been on the top of my priority list to get back to this journal and breath a bit...but everytime I've attempted, either my eyes glaze over, I get a migraine or something explodes at work, and well, my attention is diverted.  When I have set aside 10 minutes and don't have those things, the decision on what to challenge or write through next is well so complicated it hurts my brain.  There've been sooo many things I've wanted to journal about the last month to two, not the least of which is the fine line distinction between the kind of pride that keeps you out of a life of destitution and dependency on charity, as that which keeps you in it.  And there have been so many instances where parenting and dieting have been equally challenging as they have been successful.

And then there's just the same ol' same ol ranting about why life can't just slow down for 5 seconds so I can get off the hamster wheel and steady my stomach before the next ride.

The best I can do today I think is to tell you how exhausted I am.  I'm physically exhausted.  To the point where I'm actually starting to worry myself again.  So exhausted in fact, I can't even tell you why and how exhausted this really is.

So bear with me.  I'll be back soon.  I need a nap and a personal assistant.  A real vacation wouldn't hurt either.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

I'm a Good Mommy

It's true.  My husband has said so more often than I can count recently...but best of all, my three and a half year old bundle of perfection just told me so!

We seem to have what many would consider a "tough year" most years in this family.  It all simply amounts to being the stuff of life that all the good moments happen around, but this year in particular, we started with close to $100K in consumer debt (not counting mortgages and car payments), and we are now exiting the year with half that problem.  While we started out fighting every unknown bug that could affect a tiny little human, we are now exiting with very distinct bugs and we've not had too terrible a time of it since tonsils and adenoids were removed in February.

And while we're much, much, much happier than we were last January (anti depressants and half the debt problem with limited illnesses is the magic answer), we're sending 2013 out with what appears to be a flaming stake up the arse hole.  In our general geographic area, the kids have been plagued with an outbreak of gastroenteritis in epic proportions, and now we're dealing with one hell of a head cold, which is robbing people of their will to live.  And I without a sick day left to my name, my grandmother has had an accident, my mother has needed help taking care of her, and I have been trying to be the model parent of a sick kid at the same time that I'm trying to be a model employee and model grand/daughter.  Them's the breaks.  I always told my mom I wanted to be karma's kicking me in the teeth...asking me how's that feel?

But I'll tell you, the suffering, the sleeplessness, the emotional binge eating and general slavery for others is worth it, when your husband hollers from the rooftops how much he loves and appreciates everything you do.  And when in a moment of pure perfection, your sick child looks over at you, strokes your cheek gently and whispers "you're a good mommy".

I wish we could ring the bells on 2013 right this very second.  I want to leave it feeling like this.  I want to greet 2014 with more optimism, hope and energy than I had last January.  God I hope nothing else tries to kill the holidays for me between now and then.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Make the Good Things Count More

I've come to the conclusion that every good deed we do, should carry more points than anything else we do just to survive or even more, than those we do to disrupt someone else negatively.

I'm addicted to doing good.  I often don't give myself credit for that, because well, in every day ordinary life, that sounds precocious and snooty.  But I honest to goodness believe that my purpose in this life is to make the world a better place through small acts of goodness every single day.  Yes, selfishly, I long to hear someone...anyone...say that I've made a real positive impact in their lives.  But before you get all "look at the self egrandizing bitch go", it's not really because I want accolades or applause.  It's because I look for the confirmation that my purpose is being lived.  I want to make a difference.  I HAVE to make a difference every day.  I think my mom would be surprised to hear this, but I know I learned it from her and my dad.  In some way shape or form, I learned to appreciate everything in the world they gave to us.  I saw what they sacrificed, and appreciated what I was given.  This has made me the person I am today.

I HOPE that over time, those little differences through goodness amass to a whole lot of people who truly miss me when I'm gone, and who truly appreciate what I've done in my life and what my life has given to the world around me because then it was meaningful.

This week we delivered our hamper for a family we adopted for the Christmas holidays.  It's a first for me.  I've organized toy drives, and I've coordinated food drives.  I've even donated toys to the toy drives run by the police brigades and fire halls...but this was different.  This was my family giving Christmas to another family in our community, because we wanted to.  We wanted to teach our daughter through example the absolute awesomeness of giving to others when we have enough to share.  And I'll be honest, I sat on pins and needles waiting for the agency to come back with our match.  I waited on the edge of my seat, hoping against hope, that we wouldn't be matched up with a family whose wish list consisted of video games and designer purses.  I prayed we wouldn't get a family who were so adamantly opposed to birth control that the whole reason they had to apply for assistance in the first place was that they had 6 kids and not enough income to support their sex habit.

And don't get me wrong.  It's not that I believe some kids shouldn't get what they wish for at Christmas. Christmas is about the magic of being delivered matter how big or how poor your family is.  BUT there is a certain degree of responsibility that needs to surround the charitable gift and the charitable receipt.  It's that whole idiom "if you give a man a fish, he eats one meal, if you teach a man to fish he eats every meal" in play here.  When I give, it's with the hope that it will give a lift to someone who is already actively trying to help themselves, and for whom it will have real meaning. Someone who asks for charity, but isn't responsible or thoughtful about their requests, isn't going to pay it forward and isn't going to be mindful that the gift came with heartfelt thoughts and meaning.  In any regard, we were blessed with a family match who made us want to give more and do more, and delivering that hamper made me feel awesome.

And so I've been thinking, as I wrap gifts and continue to teach my daughter that these gifts are ones we're giving the people we love to show them how much we appreciate them, that this is indeed my purpose, and probably the unclear path for so many others.

A lot of the things we do on a daily basis out of habit, are indeed acts of kindness for the people in our lives that we love.  These are the small things that overtime make a difference.  As a wife and mother, I cook the meals, do the dishes, tidy up, run kids to dance class, take little adventure trips through new neighborhoods on the way home from preschool.  I get the mail, do the shopping, host the parties, give the smiles, the kisses, the hugs.  I call my mother daily, and make time for my elderly grandmother.  I take time off work to be at my mother in law's bedside and be her medical advocate when no one else is willing or able.  I offer to help a colleague, I take a deep breath and cushion criticisms at work.  I actively listen in meetings, and when I do have to deliver bad criticisms, I remind the person first what I think they do great.  I put myself out there.  I wear my heart on my sleeve.  And more often than not, I wish there was more I could do.  I am living the Christian life so many other "christians" have stopped living.  I am by no means perfect, but even trying has to be worth something.

And while I'm not naive, I do believe that if this world is operating on a points system, virtual or otherwise, if even half of us could do more of this every day, even just acknowledging it all for ourselves, we might
feel better about ourselves and be able to deal with many of the symptoms of mental illness in a much better way
we'd be better capable of coping with the onset and the triggers for depression and anxiety and
we'd maybe just maybe, be able to create a system in which doing good trumps doing bad.

We could shift social paradigms that seem to be rife with "I got mine.  Go away."  I smell a personal project brewing for me in 2014.