Philippians 3:12-14 (The Message Bible)

I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

It's a thin line

As I washed dishes the other day, my 8 year old daughter came into the kitchen, wrapped her little arms around my waist, buried her head in my chest and began to sob. When I pulled her head back and gazed into her sad eyes, I asked, "honey, what's wrong?"
She looked hopelessly at me and said "mom, I've tried on 7 different shirts. Nothing looks good on me. I'm too fat."
Ahhh....the words I never wanted to hear her say. The issue I never wanted her to have to deal with. The feelings I never wanted her to have.
Sadly, she inherited my figure instead of her daddy's. Not that I have an awful figure, but it's just not that lean, lanky look that her daddy's side of the family has. On my side of the family, we tend to be "solid". No matter how much weight I lose, I'll never have that teensy tiny petite look (that we girls LOVE) because I just have bigger bones and thicker skin, it seems. I know it sounds like I'm whining but I honestly think that people with genes like mine have to work twice as hard to have defined muscles and a lean look. It just doesn't come natural at ALL. Matt's side of the family on the other hand, its like their bodies were just born with great muscle fiber and a more "thin" skin that lets all the right curves and bumps show. (Grant got that body).
Anyway, I read an article the other day in a magazine about the fine line between modesty and shamefulness.
It's one thing to want to "cover up" because we want to respect God and our husbands with how we dress. But it's another thing entirely when we wear big moo-moo shirts because we are ashamed of our bodies.
As a mother, I definitely want to instill a sense of modesty in my daughter. It's important so that as she grows into a teen, I don't have to fight her about short skirts and low-cut shirts and belly-button rings. If I teach her now what the Bible says about modesty and how just the slightest bit of "too-much-skin" can affect boys, then she will desire it (modesty) for herself.
On the other hand, I definitely don't want her to feel shameful or embarrased about her body.
So how do you develop confidence and self-esteem without vanity and pride? How do you teach modesty but avoid shame?
Ugh! Parenting is so much more complicated than it looks!

On top of all of this, the sad thing is that she was right. None of her clothes do look very good. They make these clothes for these little girls to fit snug against the skin. That is not flattering unless you are a twig (and especially un-flattering if you are already starting to turn into a young lady up top).

So what do I do? Do I put her on a "diet"? Do I make her start exercising? Do I go out and buy her new clothes?
We already eat very healthy in our house and I have eliminated having junk food in the house at all. Obviously Matt and I exercise daily. The kids don't "exercise" but they run around outside and play, ride their bikes and do gymnastics so they're getting some activity.

Do I tell her "honey, you're not fat. You look beautiful." Or do I say (more honestly) "yes, you need to start watching what you eat and getting more exercise."
Even right now as I type this, I am watching her try on every shirt in her closet and come out with a hugh sigh every time because she hates the way she looks. This just shouldn't be something she has to deal with at age EIGHT!

I feel like I'm standing on a fence, walking a thin line and if I fall off to either side I'm going to totally mess her up. Anyone have any advise?


Alissa said...

So, I'm not a parent, so my thoughts be totally out in left field. I would say it's important to be encouraging, and if you want to add in some more family exercise, that would be great! It can be a family activity, and then you'd never tell your daughter she is fat. Of course she isn't! I hate that 8 year olds can even think that because of how our society is!!! I was so awkward up until about 12 or 13 because I have bigger muscles, etc. than the twiggy people had before high school. Hence the fact that I look thin but weigh 165 pounds now! My heart goes out to you! That is so tough to deal with! Fitness magazine has some great family workout/health sections... maybe they have good advice?

Christina said...

Check out this segment from the Today Show with Jillian Michaels...

I would just encourage her to think positively... kids go through all kinds of growth spurts and that includes out before they go up (my 9yr old is in the "round" stage right now). Since you already have a handle on nutrition and your kiddos obviously have a great example to follow, remind them that God makes us all shapes and sizes and all that matters is if we're living healthy and taking care of the bodies He gave us!

FL said...

I'm not a parent either, but growing up, I wish my parents and sister (who are naturally skinny...I'm not) started me on a fitness routine/healthy eating habits. Even to this day, I work out almost every day to shed a pound a week (if that) versus my sibling who gets skinny just by cutting out the junk food (and you can see her Jennifer Aniston arms). It doesn't have to be actual exercise like running or lifting weights, but there are a lot of activities you can do with your family. On the weekends, I see families play football and soccer. You could even go swimming together at the pool or ride bikes (up hills). You could also do a workout video that involves dancing or something boxing or yoga on the Wii. I have a co-worker who disciplines her boys by having them do pushups or flutter kicks.

Amos said...

The only thing I can think of is there are DVD's you can get at the library that are kid oriented fitness. She may really enjoy them as well as it helping her weight. You are already on the eating right track, remember the sugary drinks too, cause that adds to it during meals. I know I am already having to watch it with Ryan because he will sneak in and get snacks and before I know it he has eaten a whole box of something. So I make sure to give him the snacks sometimes and control the portion size. That is a tough one.

Rene' said...

Jen I am so sorry to hear this happened. Its a parent's nightmare how to address body image issues in today's society. Every image they see is "sexy" and you are right the clothes they sell are often not "cut" for 8yr olds. I feel for you friend. Hopefully the meeting Sat. night will give some help in this area. My only recommendation is pretty much what has already been said... I don't think you can tell her she is fat-I think that will hurt her for too long emotionally(possibly forever), I do think you can talk about being more healthful in life's choices (snacks/activities), and explain that these choices build a strong healthy body from the inside out---its important what is going on in the inside (both physically and mentally)and that will affect the outside. More family activities like tag, soccer, catch could be "non-threatening" activities. The most important thing is handling it so that her emotions aren't scarred for the future.
Again, like we talked before , as adults and "role models" to our children we have to watch what we say in front of them , no more "I'm fat" "I need to lose JUST 5 more pounds" "I was bad, I ate cake". If we can't say positive stuff, we need to keep our lips zipped and not say negative stuff, especially infront of our impressionable kids.

Kate said...

I'll be honest; I read this a few days ago and was totally stumped on giving good advice.

I do agree with Rene, it's so important to watch what we say to kids and the value that kids see us place on certain things. They are sponges and they really do soak it all up. What's important to us often becomes important or valued to them because they see the improtance and the energy we put into it. Like if they don't make it important, then the parents won't love them as much, so they better jump on the bandwagon.

I know she blogs too - can she read either of yours?

Today's ads and clothing options for kids make me gag. I can only imagine what's waiting for me next year when I have to start picking out "appropriate" clothes for our kids. Too many shirts (even bibs!)has some smart-aleck statement on them. Everyone is a "princess" or a "stud" and it all gives me the heeby-jeebies! They're KIDS!

Anywho . . . not sure where I'm going with this. It may just be coming from school and the girls around her all day. Who knows. Are you friends w/ her friends' parents? Maybe some of them are experiencing the same thing with their daughters too?

She's at a rough age now - the age when kids nowadays are really starting to mature ahead of their time (no more Jr. High or High School). Keep us posted. I'll say a little prayer for her ... and for you, though I know you'll know the right thing to say and do.

Demi Eliese said...

Poor sweet thing. I started to cry reading this. It makes me almost angry because it's society's view on what's "pretty" that can be getting to her. Have you ever watched the movie "Spanglish"? It has almost the exact same scene in it, except the mom plays an idiot, and buys her daughter all these new clothes, but a size too small (to encourage her to lose weight) which of course broke her heart! But then the maid comes in and "lets out" all the clothes and makes her day! I know having money isn't at the top of anyones list right now, but try altering some of her clothes, or get some new staples for her that fit her well. Tell her it's just her body growing and they grow for a long time. Pump up her self esteem as much as possible and encourage her that her body is the Lord's, and no other (until she get's married, but don't think of that yet! LOL) so she doesn't have to worry about her weight because all that matters is what God thinks and God say and she is PERFECT. And she is!! HUGS to you, you're a great momma!!

KC said...

I sent you an e-mail sweetie. this broke my heart; hit to close to home (it brought back images and feeling of myself at this same age)