Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Beautiful Bodies

Image credit: bionicteaching on Flick
One of the things that I love about breastfeeding and birth is the message to our children that our bodies are, in short, amazing. There are so many subtle, ubiquitous messages in our society that our bodies are wrong--the wrong shape, the wrong size, the wrong color--and that they just don't work. I don't want my children to internalize those attitudes. There are a few things that I have consciously chosen to do to help fight that:

Awareness. The poison is everywhere. And it doesn't only target girls. I saw my four year old practicing muscle poses in the mirror. It was cute, and I didn't over-react or anything, but it reminded me that many boys also suffer from body-issues over size. I want to keep an eye out for any signs that these views are taking hold in any of my kids.

Watch my mouth. To this day, every single time I see my mother, she makes negative comments about her own appearance. So do most women, I think. I purposed in my heart when my first daughter was born that she wouldn't hear me running myself down about my body. I've been able to keep it pretty well, even when it is a struggle. Ironically, one of the hardest times to do that is if someone pays me a compliment! How crazy is that? My first response is always to negate whatever they say. I suspect that that is another example of gender-conditioning, and I know that Gothard is really big on always deflecting praise. It is incredibly difficult for me to accept it with a gracious "thank you", but I am trying to learn for my children's sake.

Control. Or rather, don't try to control things I am not supposed to. One thing that has come up with many people I know who have gone through eating disorders is that it was one of the few things that they were able to control in their lives. I want to allow my children freedom, especially over their own bodies, but in other areas, too. As babies, they breastfeed as much and as often as they want, so that they get used to following their bodies' cues on hunger and satiety. We have never forced food. Most of the time, they can eat whatever they want within the things we have in the house. We are designed to regulate our intake well, and if left alone, generally do so. Check out some of these posts by Authentic Parenting, Dare to Disciple, and Ask Dr. Sears.

Be an example. Along with modeling a healthy attitude toward my body by not complaining about it, I also try to eat moderately. Food allergies have helped tremendously in getting us used to cooking a lot and being aware of the ingredients in foods. On the other hand, there have also been plenty of times when I have excused junk if we actually find something safe for the kids to eat. Also, I have a big sweet tooth (or more accurately, several sweet teeth). It is hard to balance, sometimes. And I will just go ahead and admit that when it comes to exercise, I am a flat failure. I have lots of excuses, but that is what they are. However, we did get a wii fit for Christmas, so that might help. And we do lots and lots of outdoor stuff, walking and playing, etc. It is doubtful that things like sit-ups, though, will ever be in my repertoire.  Clearly, I need to put more effort into this step.

Talk about it. If they watch a Barbie movie, we talk about the lack of realism in Barbie's shape. We talk often about what real beauty is (inner and outer). We tell our children that they are beautiful, especially focusing on things like their eyes, as well as the beauty in their spirits and personalities.

I think these things will help. And I am sure that there is more I can do. One thing that troubles me some is that in our family, there are some people who joke frequently about weight. I've mentioned it once or twice, but it has been a habit of theirs for decades and isn't going to change. I am not ready to cut them out of our lives or anything extreme like that. There is no question that all the good things from the family relationships far outweigh that (no pun intended).

I also question media exposure and some of the toys we allow in the house, superheroes for one (despite enjoying the occasional movie, they aren't the least bit interested in Barbie dolls). Again, it seems that the enjoyment and imaginative play that they have is more important than trying to limit their access.

Our bodies are beautiful. I want my children to always do what they can to be healthy, but to never despise themselves or others for their uniqueness. I want to learn more and more about this topic, and to be more mindful of what I am teaching my children. Advice is always welcome! How do you teach your children that they are wonderfully made?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice! I am trying for my daughters not to be caught of in that. So far neither is worried about their appearance but I know that will not always be the case as they are too young.