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.