After the indulgence of the holiday season, January is typically a time when gym memberships are purchased and resolutions are made to loose all that unwanted weight.
I’ve never been too caught up in body image issues. I am who I am and I’m ok with that. Since becoming a foster mom 6 1/2 yrs ago my hardly slim figure has drifted into a larger category. Partially owing to some ineffective thyroid medication, mostly because stress makes me indulge. I’d not made that correlation until I took on one of the most stressful jobs imaginable – fostering.
I used to go for walks or bike rides to release tension. That isn’t always possible and completely impossible to do without the kids who, so often, are the source of my stress. Life has gotten better this past year. Rarely do I find myself binging on donuts these days. But the weight’s still there.
As a mom of young girls, it’s not a topic of discussion. I’m quick to tell them how lovely I look and how happy I am with who I am. Because me – the real me – doesn’t begin and end with my body. Certainly it would be nice to be thinner. At the moment, for me, that’s right up there with the thought that it would be nice to be a millionaire. I’m unlikely to make a concerted effort right now.
But when I occasionally do something like go for a long walk or ride the vintage exercise bike in my room, I’m quick to tell my daughters it’s because, “I want my body to be stronger.” Never do I mention needing to loose weight.
That’s how I’ve approached things thus far. It’s been careful and intentional. Raine and Athena have enough to process and deal with without prematurely adding in the pressure of body image.
Then the holidays brought a revelation to them. A visiting relative of mine, who is and has always been very thin, explained the concept of weight and that there’s such thing as weighing too much.
“How can I make sure I don’t get fat like you?” Raine asked the other day.
I wanted to go back in time. I should have addressed my well meaning relative, saying, “Wait a minute! My kids don’t need to know about this right now!” This is a concern I’d like Raine to unlearn. But once you know something, it’s difficult to unknow it. So I rattled off a list of treats she’d have to forgo in order to stay thin. That’s all I could come up with on the spot there.
“Oh, then I don’t care about being skinny,” Raine replied.
And that was the end of our discussion on the matter. Still, the revelation is one Raine’s processing. “You know my mom’s really fat,” she informed my friend’s foster children who are visiting this weekend. She’s watching to see how the world around her reacts to this fact. Thankfully, with the relative gone, the reactions Raine’s receiving don’t affirm weight as the primary means of evaluating someone’s worth.
Once I determine the best approach, I will speak with her again. The trouble is, I’m not sure what to say. It’s a fact, I’m not thin. Maybe I should be. Probably I won’t be. I have other concerns. I have other attributes. Now how to convince my 6yr old of that?