My Kids and the “F” Word

Click bait title, sorry… Not THAT “F” word. They’re all under 5 and home with me most of the time, so we have pretty decent control over the profanity they’re exposed to (although Cora has learned the “Name Game”–Cora Cora Bo Bora, Banana Fana Fo Fora… Aaaaaaand we have a dog named Grux…so oops…)

In my home growing up, the “f” word was fart. I said that “f” word ALL the time, and my little brother told on me ALL the time.

But I’m not even talking about that “f” word. There is an “f” word more serious to me, more painful and offending. And I’ve stressed about my kids and this word. Until I recently realized, there’s small things I can do to take the power away from this word in our home. We simply won’t use it.

Fat. We just won’t use it. (Brief testimony in italics, point of the post in standard type. Skip ahead if you’re in a rush.)

Short truth (I do plan to share a longer version of this later), I struggle with body image. Surprise! I think most everyone does at some point (or always), to some degree or another. We all know the famous scene in Mean Girls where they stare in the mirror, all of them gorgeous, and just destroy themselves with all the different things they hate about their bodies. And in some cases, these body image issues can lead to incredibly destructive behavior and determination of self-worth.

Being fat was personally something I was always self-conscious about. As a kid, I felt I was always bigger than I should be. And I grew up with CRAZY supportive and encouraging parents! Still struggled. Then I grew up, got married, got a big kid job, got busy, got lazy, and gained weight. Then for the last 5 years, I have been pregnant and/or breastfeeding. Y’all. My body doesn’t know what it’s doing anymore! In addition to great parents, now I have a husband who makes me feel like a million bucks! But then there’s that darn mirror, and the self-doubt creeps back…

Somewhere in the last 5 years, I’ve learned a more important lesson. I’ve learned about my health. I’ve learned how to use food and exercise to feel good. And if I am feeding my body the right things and focusing on activity as a way to relieve my stress and actually FEEL energy, then I don’t care about the shape of my body. Most times, a healthy lifestyle DOES improve how I look, but even if it didn’t, I’m letting go of the visual ideal. I mean, the other day I put a goal weight into a BMI calculator, and it STILL said I was overweight! HA! Oh well! In a much longer explanation, I have reached a place where I am truly, honestly comfortable with who I am. I am healthy. I am happy.

But anyway, I developed this worry about my kids and the “F” word. How do I keep them from focusing on all the things they DON’T like about themselves, and instead LOVE all the unique things that make them exactly who they are? I don’t want them to have the same struggle. I don’t want them to be unhappy with their height or weight or eye color or teeth or nose or or or or or… Isn’t there a method I can use to make them completely confident in who they are? Can’t I help them skip the learning for years and years like I did? Can’t they just grow up appreciating the beauty in all of our body types, skin colors, hair styles, bone structures, etc. Probably not, because that’s not how any of us work. But I’m going to do everything I can to give them the strongest springboard of confidence, so maybe they won’t have to journey as far and hard to be able to accept themselves.

And one of the ways I’m trying to do that, is we don’t use the “f” word. They will never hear me talk about myself, or certainly anyone else, as fat. As a former English teacher, I hate the syntax of that anyway. “I am fat. Mommy is fat.” No! “Mommy is creative! Mommy is fun! She’s a great cook (as long as it’s macaroni and not anything “supah gwoss”)! She is silly! She is beautiful!” Truth be told, Mommy probably needs to lose a couple for her basic health, but the FAT isn’t something I ever plan for them to SEE me SEEING in myself. We will not speak negative things about who we are. We will speak positive, beautiful truths.

As I am consistently getting healthier, we do use the scale. Some people ditch it, but it’s my accountability y’all, otherwise I can justify those late night treats like nobody’s business. But when we each take a turn (because there is NO sneaking with tiny people around), they look at their number and just say “I’m so healthy!” or “Look how I’m growing!” Cora did look at my number once and exclaim “Mom, you’re REALLY healthy!” Haha, thanks kid. But ya know, it’s the heart behind it right? As I challenge myself to feed my family healthier, I never tell them something will make them fat. We don’t have donuts for breakfast every day because that won’t help us feel good. It doesn’t give us good energy like protein and fruit to do exciting and wonderful things. We don’t eat cookies and cake for dinner, or have candy AS our snack, because that WILL make your stomach sick. Cora even chastised ME for “letting her” have too much sugar the other day when she didn’t feel well. So we had a great, healthy conversation about listening to our bodies and not eating until we are sick. We talk about the science of food and how God designed our bodies to work beautifully. Cora knows the food groups and how they fuel us. Someday, SOMEDAY, she will eat a little from each food group everyday without drama.

And it’s not just the word “fat”. I’m determined for my tiny people to observe and value all the unique things about themselves. We love to point out beautiful things about others around us. I am hoping hoping hoping that their sweet little eyes just take in the world and love all of the variety in us all.

And I guess that’s really the reason I started this post in the first place. Everyone is just so beautiful! Truly! If you struggle with the “f” word, or some other body image profanity (too short, too skinny, a scar you wish would fade, a body part you wish hadn’t healed that way from that accident, I’m being so serious, our insecurities are endless), know you are beautiful. This isn’t my whole health story, just a small part that helped me relax and let go of the weight stress, and simply enjoy getting healthy. If I do begin to focus on the negatives I’m unhappy with, or long for the day I’m “finished” working out or wish I could go back to eating nachos for lunch everyday (dairy, right?), I try to think about this: this thing I’m trying to get away from, what if it never went away? What if the weight NEVER goes away? What if your hair never does that “thing” that others seem to master? What if you are always the shortest (or tallest) person in the room? What if those wrinkles keep deepening? What if you never achieve the perfect skin tone or texture, that seems to be so evident in others? Is THAT the great tragedy of my life? Is THAT what I am mourning? If I find myself in that place, I think of all the exciting things in my life that deserve so much more attention. There’s too much joy to find each day.

So let’s eliminate the profanity about ourselves and breathe. Breathe in this beautiful life, and your beautiful self.

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