Raising my child

A few days ago, I read a post titled ” “Mom, I’m Fat:” One Mother’s Inspired Response to Her 7 Year Old ” by Janell Hofmann (you can see the whole post here ) and I have been thinking about ever since.

What were my concerns when I was 7?  I don’t really remember, but I am pretty sure weight was not in the ever changing top ten list.

I don’t know the exact age but I do recall at some point during my teenage years worrying because I was “fat”. But to be honest during the same period I worried about being too tall, having knees too “bony”, believing one arm was slightly longer than the other one, actually having boobs (swimming classes where pure torture at 13), my legs resembling “chicken legs”, and I even went through a phase where I was sure my knuckles where too dark when compared against the rest of the finger… Ah, youth!

An aunt used to say that you don’t watch TV to see “ugly” people, you watch TV to see “pretty” people, and now that I actually stop think about what she said, as an adult I must say, I don’t agree.

I can see where she was coming from; when she was growing up TV was not a common thing and going to the movies was a very big deal. Most movies and early TV shows where all about entertainment: a beautiful story, a good laugh or a good cry. But that single side aspect of the media evolved with time thanks to the increase in availability.

Now, audiovisual media not only entertains, but educates and is used as a means to transmit a message to society. Long gone are the days where all people wanted from a movie was Gene Kelly dancing, or lots and lots of glitter and glamour.

I think that as parents now, we need to be more proactive about tackling issues like this and help our kids navigate the body image perception jungle.

I have caught my toddler Llollo staring at Hubby a few times, while Hubby is completely unaware of being the centre of attention. On those moments Hubby is not doing anything remarkable, just mundane activities: watching the news, eating a sandwich or cooking  (my love, everything you do IS remarkable, but I do need to make a point) . I have seen how Llollo absorbs the moment and I see him trying to imitate his dad in the little things: how he holds a cup,  how he bites his toast.

Children are sponges; during the formation years, they will take as the norm what mum and dad DO and what mum and dad SAY. I don’t mean to say that home represents the only source; peers, environment and society have there share of the load. But it is silly to neglect the weight that the message at home has.

I am not generalizing, I am not saying this is the one and only root cause of a very complex problem, and I am not on my pedestal pointing fingers and preaching. On the contrary, I am realizing that drugs, sex and rock n’ roll are not the only things I need to worry about when raising my kid, so I am sharing with the blog-sphere my latest source of stress.

Of course, you don’t do it on purpose, you don’t wake up one morning saying: today I will mess-up my kid a little. Most probably one is not aware that is being the centre of contemplation when being negative about oneself body weight and image. One is not aware how we reinforce in children the media message of “beauty”, when we obsess about celebrity gossip or spend every single free moment in front of the TV.

It hurts when I read about a girl struggling with body image,  It hurts when I read about an adult woman struggling with these issues. I want this to stop, I want that every parent sits down with his/heir kid(s) and have that talk about how we all come in different shapes and sizes and how all of us are beautiful, what makes that kid special on her own unique way,  what we admire on her.

The message needs to be sent over and over again,  just like the one about not drinking straight form the juice carton, it needs to be repeated endlessly for it to sink in. We need to show them we have a positive body image, we need to show them what is important in life (your family, your call on what that could be).

I cringe reading about 16 year old girls getting the boob job they “always wanted” as a sweet sixteen present.  Always wanted?

Why are mum and dad reinforcing in their girl, the message that she is worth nothing more than the size of her breasts? Have they stopped to think what is going to happen when all her dreams don’t come true at 25? 35? 45? upgrade to a D cup? butt-cheek implants? look for the guy that is only focused on her “greatest assets”?

Why are mum and dad reinforcing in their girl’s brother, the message that it is right to value a women just for  her body? What will happen when junior realizes that he doesn’t have anything in common and doesn’t share anything other than boob-appreciation with the playboy bunny he married? cheating? divorce?

It looks like this became a rant, but my point is that whatever happens at home is going to be the foundation over which this new person will build his/her life, from here they will deal with the influence coming from the outside world.

My aunt didn’t have to deal with this issue, audiovisual media was scarce so its influence was not strong, there were other problems more present back in the day when she was raising kids; but for me, just like for the author of that post, this is an issue that needs monitoring and action on my kid and on my kid’s environment.

I believe TV and the media in general should be about people; not skinny, buffed, white-teethed people, but just people. Not “pretty” vs “ugly”, blonde bombshell vs mean fat brunette.

But while we wait for that change to happen,  I think we do need to do something about it at home, to help counteract the damaging message sent.

I owe that to my kid, I want him to be happy.

Advertisements

Home sweet home?

“Ladies and gentlemen, as we start our descent, please make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position … blah blah … seat belt … blah blah … turn the damn ipads off! …  Thank you.” … or something like that, meant the captain on my flight back to London.

I am on my way back home … home?.

I have spent part of the holidays at my parents’ home, the house where I grew up. I like my old room, with my creaky old bed, that belonged to my mum during her teenage years. I like the greenness that pours in through the windows, and I love the warmth that I feel anywhere in that house.

Outside that house though, things feel foreign every time I go back.

I moved abroad many years ago, and selfishly, the whole country decided to move on and continue with life … They did not care about my little need of keeping some things the same. New restaurants replaced my old “burger joints”, new developments popped up out of nowhere, people dress different and have worries and concerns different to what I remembered.

How could they do this to me?

Looking through the windows I can see a clear, bright, beautiful day, glowing on what looks like a thick blanket of cotton wool. 10 minutes before landing, the plane goes through that blanket, revealing a dark grey, very damp landscape.

I love the dark green fields surrounding London, the soil is so wet it looks black, you can almost feel the smell of clear rain. It is going to be cold, windy and grim; part of my body cringes … and the other part relaxes and feels at home.

Where is home? where is MY home?

I know the whole “home is where your heart is” concept … but I am wondering about it in a more mundane way.

Where will I grow old? well, older?, Is this it, am I going to be a London pensioner? Is this the land where I will be laid to rest?

The thought causes a bit of anxiety.

I came to London to study and give myself a chance of trusting my heart. Because of work, I got used to moving places quite often, for years I moved towns, and countries, with little trouble. My study coursework would last 2 yrs, so I guessed that was my time frame before being ready to jump to a new adventure.

To, once again, confirm that planning too ahead is futile in my case, I stayed and planted my roots here.

One of hubby’s friend, also an expat, is having problems with his little son at school. They have been very keen on keeping him on an all-Russian environment at home, so he does not lose his heritage. But the little boy has not been able to connect with the rest of the class, his teacher defined it as “a total lack of awareness on all things British”.

I guess it is a trial and error thing, trying to raise children as part of the community while keeping foreign heritage present.  I am raising a little Londoner, and I am committed to make him feel the British citizen he is without losing some of my traditions. I’ll learn to make sausage and mash and to deal with rhubarb, although I must say I already make a killer shepherd’s pie.

I think for now, I have those bases covered. But what about me? Is it here where I’ll stay to miss him when he decides to move abroad to chase his dreams?

My old country is not there anymore; London feels temporary, but I have been here for ages, so how really temporary is it? All of my friends are expats, in fact I am surrounded by expats: co-workers, neighbors, they are everywhere.

When I take Llollo to the common to play, I see how almost every family is bilingual, the least you hear from parents and children is English. French, Spanish, Italian and the odd Japanese, every time we go. Where are all the British families?

I have tried to join the community and become more involved with British people without success. I am likable really, very funny, but maybe I have been trying too hard.

I have no plan of action, I am feeling without roots and don’t know what to do about it.

Maybe I am going through an early mid-life crisis … should I get a Porsche? a motorcycle? a new haircut?