As a new mom, I am constantly plagued with thoughts like: “What if I turn out like my mom and she kinda hates me?” “Will she think her dad is the fun one and I’m the boring one?” “Will she be too afraid to talk to me about sex?” The list goes on. So, while I am young and she is unable to sass me (a.k.a. I am still able to appreciate what it’s like to be the daughter in an over-bearing/slightly dysfunctional relationship), I am going to write about the kind of mom I want to be.
I recently came across this infographic, claiming to predict your child’s height. Obviously, I know that this is just an old wives’ tale and can never be scientifically infallible. But when I did the math just for fun (her father is 6′ 4″ and I’m 5′ 4″), I calculated that my daughter would be 5′ 6″. That doesn’t sound so crazy by itself, but for my family (specifically the females) that’s pretty tall. I’m the tallest woman in my family and, for the most part, my husband’s. My own mother’s voice suddenly came into my head and whispered: “Don’t let her wear heels.” Which is something I coincidentally never do because I feel like a clunky monster. Plus, they’re uncomfortable.
But then I mentally smacked her and thought: “I don’t want to be the kind of mother who encourages poor self-esteem or insecurity, intentionally or otherwise.”
This train of thought got me reminiscing about being in middle school and complaining to my mom about my weight, to which she immediately responded with: “OK, we’ll put you on Weight Watchers.” Now, this isn’t inherently evil, but looking back, all I hear is: “OK, I agree you’re pretty chubby; let’s start an 11 year old on a stringent diet.”
I would like to clarify that I am not trying to say that a parent should ignore their child’s weight if it’s really an issue, but there are better ways of handling it. I like to think that a normal parent, after dishing out heartfelt reassurances and love, would have just sent their kid out in the yard to play (and get some exercise) and then cooked some vegetables to go with dinner for once. And if really necessary, enrolled them in some kind of physical activity (i.e. sports, dance, etc). Because 11 is too young to be worrying about appearance (mainly because of boys’ crude comments, but that’s another issue for another time). They’re just out of elementary school. They should still be playing, watching cartoons, and occasionally snuggling with their parents.
My mother wasn’t the only guilty party. I don’t think my dad has ever told me that I look beautiful. At least definitely not in so many words. Oddly enough, he actually criticized my clothes more than anything else. I remember one time I was wearing a loose-fitting t-shirt with guitars on it, grey skinny jeans, and vans. He asked me why I looked so boyish and if I was trying to attract “skater kids” (in his mind, “druggies”). Yet I’ve never heard him say a word to my sister in her booty-shorts.
I have always struggled with body image and it was my husband who made me feel that I was beautiful (or at least, that there was more to be admired about my physical attributes than just my breasts). Plus now that I’m a mom I have a sort of “Bigger Fish To Fry” attitude about it. I never want to put my daughter in that mindset, that even one of the two people in the world who are supposed to love her most think she is flawed at her core.
Not to mention the fact that I want to instill in my daughter the idea that she is worth more than just her appearance. I want to show her, be an example of, a woman who is intelligent, brave, funny, happy, and fulfilled (professionally, romantically, and domestically). I want to tell her: “Your looks don’t matter, but I think you’re beautiful.”
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As seen here on Odyssey