My biggest Fear

My biggest fear for my kids is not that they will be abducted, or join a cult at the age of fourteen, shave their head, wear a bed sheet and announce the second coming. Nor am I deathly afraid of them being run down by a cell-phone talking SUV driving, class A-hole, although that is quite likely here in good ol’ traffic law ignoring Montreal.

No.

I am afraid they will get fat. I am afraid they will be those kids I see in the Walmart by my suburban work, or in the thrift store in my low income neighborhood that have to shop in the woman’s plus size department. I feel so sad watching those kids waddle their way through the aisles. I have images of the cartilege in their knees being worn down by the weight and of Type 2 diabetes at the age of 12 and of heart attacks and peer mockery.

I am ashamed of this. I am ashamed because there is a voice in my head, a small, mean one that is convinced that it is their fault. They made the choice to overeat. They didn’t have enough will power to stop. Now, I know that this is not true. I’ve read enough books on the subject to know that it is more complicated then that. Dealing with my own weight issues, I know that gaining weight happens gradually, after an accumulation of bad decisions. I also know that people have complicated relationships with food, eating when they are feeling lonely, or depressed and that just because someone is bigger does not mean that they are incompetent or not worth listening to. But just the fact that I have to consciously remind myself of this shows the amount of prejudice bigger people must face in the world. How we unconciously judge people by how they look ( I think there was an actual study based on this).

My god, I, myself, have a complicated relationship with food. I eat the most at night when I feel like I deserve a reward for getting through the day. Still, the voice in my head persists. If only they would stop drinking 2 litres of coke. If only they would get a little exercise… If only they would go to bed instead of eating more chocolate chips (okay, that one is me.)

There is alot of if onlys coming from that mean little judgmental voice in my head. I don’t think this is altogether healthy on my part. It is a response to my own personal history as well as my family’s- I think I have mentioned that I come from the sort of peasant gene stock that was never sure when the next meal was coming therefore had to stockpile the fat the way farmers stockpile for winter: stick it in the barn or the cellar. All the woman on my mother’s side of the family are obese. They wear their weight in front, like a baby that has been gestating for ten years. My mother is the only who has escaped this fate by a combination of over-exercising (15 marathons anyone?), under-eating (she stopped eating when my dad died) and basically worrying about it all the time. Now that she is older, she has relaxed a little. She is still fit, but less worried about what she puts in her mouth and a lot more fun to be around.

But there is another part of me that worries about my daughters. How to get them to understand the importance of eating well and not too much without giving them a complex? I don’t discuss my fear of fatness in front of them and I try not to let the mean voice out of its cage ever. But it is important that they know they can’t just eat cheerios and milk, or cinnamon buns from the bakery down the street without some consequences. To make it worse, my oldest daughter loves ballet. And just this last year I noticed the ballet teacher trying unsuccessfully to get her to suck in her stomach (she has my body- imagine a stick figure. Make a circle for the torso and then add 4 lines for the limbs and you have our basic shape). Of course, she would be having a general toa chicken plate right before ballet.Yeah. We stopped that habit.

I want them to grow with their bodies. Feel confident with how they look, feel in shape enough to feel their own strength. I want them to be Amazons, not waifs. To feel full but not stuffed. I want them to know the feeling of having enough energy to do what they want to do, because they are eating right and exercising. I don’t ever want them to feel the shame of not being able to run or jump or follow their friends because they are too heavy.

On the other hand, maybe this is one fear that could be more helpful then harmful. Now if only I could practice what I preach…

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5 Responses to My biggest Fear

  1. Anonymous says:

    Unasked for advice:
    1. Don't talk to them about it. They will pick up on your fear if you hound them about it. I would like to give you specific examples from my own life but I feel like I would be betraying my mother's neuroses. So instead I call them my neuroses.

    (For example: my mother was always worried that her children wouldn't find good jobs. Hi. Have you met my sister and I lately?)

    2. Don't talk about it on the internet. They will find your food issues one day, if they are not already pretty much aware of them.

    3.I'm worried about your mom not eating. Your dad died almost 30 years ago. It's time she starts eating again.

    Heads up: just because you think you aren't discussing it around them doesn't mean they aren't hearing it. I've been in your house and your walls aren't soundproof. I know a ridiculous amount of family secrets that my mom is still “waiting to tell me about when I'm older”. KIDS CAN HEAR THINGS. KIDS KNOW THINGS.

    This is the one thing I seriously don't understand about parents: I think that when one gives birth, or has one's partner gives birth, OR one adopts, the part of your brain that remembers what it's like to be a kid — it dies. I think it's probably a necessary biological function, and I don't want it to happen to me. I like remembering the injustices of childhood.

    (And that shame you don't want them to feel? Sometimes, one has to feel the shame in order to develop some character or to make changes. Or, you know, the other side — what if your kids are the ones to shame others? That would suck even worse, I think.)

    yeah, it's carrie — terrorizing you on the internet.

  2. Diane says:

    I know there have been a lot of food issues in your family and this seems to have caused you to be hypersensitive on this issue. I , too, have to remind myself not to judge those people that are overweight. I have to remind myself that I eat when I'm bored, or depressed. I have a difficult relationship with sugar.
    But as far as your kids go, I think you just need to continue what you are doing. And by that I don't mean having this awful fear of your kids being fat. I mean by feeding them mostly on healthy foods. By making sure they get exercise. By seeing you exercising and eating good food. But also by not making it an obsession. A few treats once in a while are not going to make you obese. I think it leads to a more healthy relationship with food. It makes me sad that you seem to doubt your decisions as a parent so often. You love your kids like crazy and they know it. That is the most important thing. You make your parenting decisions from that love. They know that too. They are going to be fine. Really.

  3. Anonymous says:

    “I am ashamed of this. I am ashamed because there is a voice in my head, a small, mean one that is convinced that it is their fault. They made the choice to overeat. They didn't have enough will power to stop. Now, I know that this is not true.”

    While in graduate school, my partner and I lived in a low-income part of the city where we lived. The grocery store there had a dismal produce selection (no organics to speak of). Americans who have fewer resources cannot afford the healthy food options we (non low-income) often take for granted. So, next time you're in a second hand clothing store, try to remember this. Because while in some cases it might very well be “their fault,” in a lot of other cases, it's yet another symptom of living on the edge.

    That's all.

  4. Thank you all for your comments. They are all just, thoughtful and a tad bit scathing, which they should be.
    Part of my reason for beginning this blog was to talk about all those issues that come up in parenting that are not talked about. Alas, that includes confronting some of my less spectacular qualities (my hitherto unacknowledged fat phobia or the fact that homework makes me turn into a female version of Mr. Hyde).
    I do this, because there are so many aspects of parenting, and parts of us, as individuals who parent, that we do not talk about, that get swept under the rug. I think it is pretty normal to doubt ourselves. I know it keeps me questioning my decisions when it comes to my kids and hopefully keeps me from letting my unreasonable fears take over.
    I am not going to sugarcoat my own faults here. There is a voice in my head that thinks all those awful thoughts when I see an overweight person. But there is another voice, a lot louder and stronger, that overpowers the other (I sound like a schizophrenic don't I?). That one knows the struggle I go through with my own weight, knows about other people's battle with food and can reason that there are many factors that contribute to how we are in the world. Just the fact that water is more expensive than sodapop is an indication of what people on a lower income must contend with. I know this. I choose to let this voice be the one I listen to.
    Still, I don't want to sweep that nasty little voice under the rug as I am pretty sure it will do more damage if it remains unacknowledged. Therefore, blog posts like this, where I reveal the nastier side of myself and the more doubtful and afraid parent in me. Sorry if it offends.

  5. Diane says:

    You are absolutely right. I doubted my parenting skills on an almost daily basis. It's a difficult job being responsible for those small human beings. I think it is very courageous to bring up topics that are often ignored. It often gives other people the freedom to confront their demons. In case you are interested, you didn't offend me.

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