I know I usually write about the crazy world of politics or how our culture tends to dismiss the fact that women do still have working brains after they become mothers. But my world has become a little overwhelmed lately by something else — a ‘tween daughter.
I knew the day would come when my once sweet child would roll her eyes at everything I said and that at school pick-up she would either pretend she didn’t know me or act like I was just the driver. I was prepared for that.
But I wasn’t prepared for my slip of a sixth-grader — she is in the 30th percentile for height and 25 percentile for weight as of her 12-year checkup — to be plagued by thoughts of whether parts of her body are fat.
Fat. A girl who still can fit into children’s size 8 pants at the age of 12 is worried that she’s fat. There’s not an ounce of “extra” anything on our daughter’s body, yet she’s beginning to say things like, “My legs are fat,” and “I don’t want to eat too much ice cream because I don’t want to be fat.”
I wish I could blame some of this on the pediatrician we had when our daughter was a baby, who made a mistake in weighing her and proclaimed, “Well, I guess she won’t be a ballerina!” If I was a really awful person, I would mention in this story that the doctor was, um, a little “hefty” herself, but I’m so above that. I wish I could sit in on the lunch conversations at her school, where I’m sure she and her friends are scrutinizing every inch of themselves. I wish I could erase the uber-perfect photo-shopped images of models and actresses that are everywhere that worm their way into the psyches of our girls.
I’m not a perfect parent in this scenario. Even if I try to keep our home free of America’s Next Top Model reruns, I admit I have a weakness for the occasional fashion magazine, especially when we travel. I know she sees them on my nightstand and even if she’s not flipping through the pages, she sees the models on the cover with their airbrushed perfectness.
Twelve-year-olds should pretty much be free to have a scoop of ice cream or a couple of cookies at the end of the day and not worry about body image. So I’m at a loss as to how to convince her that she is perfect as she is. Even if she wasn’t tiny, I would tell her she’s perfect just the way she’s made. As a mom I’ve been extra careful not to talk about my own body issues in front of her. Ever. We’ve always talked about the importance of eating healthy foods especially for keeping her body healthy. Her love of soccer has made this a natural conversation because you can’t have a couple of scrimmages and games a week without strong legs and the right “fuel” to keep your body going.
But the body image self-doubt that I thought we could avoid by raising her with the idea of a healthy, strong body being beautiful has settled firmly into her middle-school brain. And while it may be a passing phase that’s being fueled by the insecurities of other girls around her, I’m afraid of these thoughts taking up permanent residence in her head.
Read more by Joanne at her place, PunditMom. Joanne is also the author of Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America (on sale now at Amazon!), a bipartisan look at how women online will be a force to be reckoned with in the 2012 election! Follow Joanne on Twitter and Facebook so you don’t miss any of her Babble Voices posts!
Image via Joanne Bamberger. All rights reserved.