“You should really eat to live, not live to eat.”
My step-mom said this to me when I was around nine or ten. Before this, my body was something that propelled me on the playground. It was for fun and function. It never occurred to me that I had something to be ashamed of, or that food and eating was something I should feel bad about. In hindsight, this comment was probably not intended to be hurtful, and I’m sure it was promptly forgotten.It’s certainly not the worst thing ever said to me under the guise of helpful parenting. The problem is, those words were the first shots in the war against my body that has lasted for twenty plus years.
I don’t want to write about body image and eating disorders and all that, because lord knows there is a wealth of information about those subjects and they are all written by people much more qualified than myself. I do, however, want to remind everyone how potent words are. Everything that comes out of your mouth has weight, and how it affects people is so important. Caroline wrote a fantastic piece on how we should use our words to lift each other up, rather than tear each other down. You can read that here, and I agree with everything she says. I think as parents, we need to really listen to what we’re saying to our children.
The thing that I want most is to raise a son who is kind, well-adjusted and respectful to everyone. I worry that I will fail him constantly, and I worry that I will fail him without even realizing it. The things that we say, out of frustration and stress and even joking, they matter and they will be taken to heart because children don’t know not to take them personally. It’s our responsibility as parents to speak with kindness and love, even when we’re angry or tired or can’t stand the thought of watching Sesame Street one minute longer.
Patience is a virtue, and I’m working on cultivating it. In the meantime, I will try to learn from the mistakes that others have made, and try not to repeat them with my son.