I’m blessed with one of each gender children but still feel that there is greater scope for my daughter to pick up my bad habits and behaviours than with my son. I don’t believe this is sexist I just feel it is so with me in my situation.
When I was growing up my spheres of reference were largely my parents or my social group, perhaps books to a degree and some light magazine references. With the invasion of social media into every corner of our lives and those of our children, their influences are an entirely different and an altogether much darker beast.
I have always thought I am an open and approachable mother but however open and approachable I may be I have witnessed a perceptible physical recoil on certain subjects…. unfortunately these are exactly the subjects that really need addressing but sadly they are garnering this information from social media and google searches! So do you press on? Or hang back…… where is the parent handbook on challenging teens?!! How do I make sure that she is equipped with all the facts she needs without overburdening her? It’s a tough one.
As a young mum I was destroyed to learn of a friend who was struggling to manage her bulimia whilst pregnant. You know what it’s like, your toddler follows you everywhere, even to the bathroom. Her visits to the bathroom were not just for a number 1 or 2, there was something much more sinister going on and on two levels she really struggled. One to keep it from her toddler and two….. how can you justify throwing up the very nutrition that your growing baby needs…. the guilt coupled with her need to control her food were so hard for her to manage that she sought solace in self harm…. such a downward spiral. Before too long and before too much damage was done, she managed to get some really good therapy and was lucky enough to be referred on the NHS to a brilliant psychologist who really helped her iron out some of the issues surrounding the root case. We talked about it together and she was able to continue her pregnancy with some of the risks mitigated. The point being…..the seeds of most eating disorders are commonly sown in childhood, a chance comment or remark by a unfeeling or ignorant relative or friend can be all it takes to set into action a pattern of control and purging that will remain both a comfort and a dirty secret for a lifetime. That kind of damage has such far-reaching effects and although I know men and boys can and do suffer from this the driver for girls to be ever more perfect is still there and it just isn’t as bad for boys. Even in light of the new wave of body positivity that has swept across Instagram you will still find the body shamers out there spreading their negativity and hate.
One of my lasting wishes is that my daughter is never conscious of the need to conform to a certain size or ideal. It would destroy me if she were to become a slave or victim to something so insidious and damaging just because someone else thinks she should look a certain way. I’m sure many of us will remember our mother’s NEVER being happy with their bodies, always lurching from one diet to another, going to ‘keep fit’ (showing my age now), eating bird-like portions (and often secretly eating when their father was not around). How did that happen? When did it become OK for a man to dictate what we eat? I’m so grateful for the many women out there today who are promoting healthy over thinness because that it ALL that matters. Health and wellbeing. It’s not rocket science that you can carry a few extra pounds and still run marathons and be incredibly fit. I will never understand how women criticise their own daughters for maybe putting on a bit of weight or allow others to do so… teenage is such a fragile time, those tiny comments can pierce like daggers into a growing girl’s self-confidence and then slowly rust…. poisoning her self-image.
Going back to the start, how can we be that great example to our girls and indeed our boys? By living an honest and true life. By showing them that they can eat what they want but that for every action there is a reaction and there is no doubt that we should lead by example and try and promote a healthy attitude to food in every respect. On a personal level I have not eaten sugar for years as I believe it to be the root of all evil (long before Davina McCall jumped on the band wagon). My son has recently come to the same decision and has adopted a similar regime for himself but not because it has been forced on him, he has just come to the same conclusion as me…. maybe I set him that good example?! Maybe I’m doing something right! Siiiiiiiiigggghhhh and EXHALE.
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