Thursday, February 6, 2014

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, but Words Can Hurt The Most

My handsome Buddy
"I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well."  Psalm 139:14 (ESV)

I have become very aware of the fact that in a few months, I will officially be the mother of a tween.  I realize this, not because of how big my little Buddy is getting, but because of the struggles he is starting to go through.  (Sweetpea is only a couple of years away and Sunshine will be there faster than I want her to be). 

You see, my son is much like I was at his age~very slim and not maturing as quickly as some of his friends.  He is still shorter and skinnier than most of his friends, even those that are younger.  Until now, it really hasn't bothered him.  As I said, that was until now.  Part of growing up is becoming aware of yourself and with that comes becoming aware of others, too.  He is very aware now, that he is not as big or as strong as his friends, and it bothers him.  That bothers me. 

Buddy likes to exercise.  He does push ups, sit ups, arm curls with 2 pound weights, (because that's all we will let him have right now), and likes to run.  He is very healthy.  Sometimes, he does these things a little too often and complains of hurting.  We are trying to teach him a healthy way to exercise and take breaks.  Unfortunately, that doesn't matter to him much right now.  He wants to be as big as his friends and feels he will never get there.  The other day, he pulled his shirt over his head because he didn't want to look at himself, because he "doesn't have any abs." My husband took him in the bathroom and lifted his shirt, then explained to him that what he thought was abs was fat.  (Not to say anything bad about my handsome husband)!  He explained to our son that he was the one with abs.  That made his day.  At least for the moment.  My husband also very carefully explained to him that it's not fun to be made fun of, and that we also shouldn't make fun of others and to never talk bad about any one's body because God made us all different and that is a good thing.

Unfortunately, I know this new struggle is far from over and I pray he, and my two daughters who will no doubt be there soon enough, come through it unscathed.  I did not.  As I mentioned, I was very slim.  Down right skinny.  Let me describe how it was told to me... "You look like a toothpick, a bean pole, a {fill in the blank with any thing that had no shape or figure.}"  Even better, many relatives and other adults told me, "you would be so pretty IF you just had a little meat on your bones."  Shall I go on?  I heard these things over and over and over, even Well into my adulthood.  Did I mention over and over?  I know these were not said to bring harm, but I want to tell you something....They can be very harmful!  My parents are not to blame.  They are not the ones who said these things, but their complements got drowned out with all the other teasing and hurtful comments from everyone else.

In college and as a young adult, I joined and gym and lifted weights for a while, thinking it would help me gain weight in a healthy way~muscle over fat, but it never changed anything.  I would sit and eat jars of peanut butter, hoping it would help me 'get more meat on my bones.'  But, it didn't work.  Nothing worked.  Every time I went to see a doctor, I would ask them if there was anything I could do to gain weight.  They told me not to worry about it.  I'm pretty sure being super skinny was a major factor in having trouble conceiving a child when my husband and I started trying to grow our family.

Even when I was pregnant, I was told I looked like "a toothpick with a wad of gum stuck to it."  Okay, I know that was actually meant to be a compliment of sorts because the only place I really gained weight was in my belly, and it didn't bother me too much.  But, don't think those voices inside my head weren't trying to tear me down.  When everyone else on the face of the earth gets bigger boobs when they are pregnant, and I didn't, yeah, those comments only made my self-consciousness worse.  I used to pray as I nursed my children that God wouldn't allow nursing to make my boobs any smaller because of it, because He knows my struggle.  Thankfully, He listened and showed compassion.

I went out with a blue million guys before I met my husband.  I thought that a guy showing me attention would prove that I was pretty enough.  Or, that I owed it to this guy, or that guy, to go out with him at least once because someone actually noticed me.  It never really proved anything to me, except that I went out with too many guys.  I never wanted to be settled for.  Sure, I have a 'great personality.'  No, I'm not 'butt ugly.'  No, I really don't want to enter any beauty contests.  But, I wanted the one guy who asked me to marry him to think I was so beautiful that, even if he didn't know me, he would pick me out over all the models and 'bunnys' out there.  That he thought I was the most beautiful girl he ever saw, just the way I am.  One guy friend of mine said that some girls are like the nice cars that are good for families that you settle down with, but there are the other girls that are like the top of the line sports editions that guys actually dream of.  I just wanted that one guy I married to think I was the dream, not the nice thing good for families that you settle down with.  And although my husband has spent the last 17 years trying to convince me that he does think I'm perfect, the voices inside my head keep saying, "but you're never really pretty enough."  "You would be so pretty, IF..."  "You know he wouldn't pick you out just based on your body.  You know he would prefer something better.  It's a good thing you have a good personality."

I have laughed and joked with everyone, and even made jokes about myself to go along with them.  I certainly never wanted anyone to know how much I struggle with body image.  That's so shallow, right??  One would think that an adult wouldn't be bothered by it any more.  But sometimes, those struggles just don't go away.  I still tell myself, "you would be so pretty IF..."  I still think I look like nothing but a toothpick, something with absolutely no figure.  Except, now I have a new little flab on my belly, left over from having a 3rd child at the age of 39, that didn't go away as it did with the other two.  Great.  That's not exactly the figure I wanted to have.  Now, I'm a toothpick with a booger stuck to it?  (Sorry, it's gross.  I just can't think of anything else that can stick to a toothpick that's not quite as big as a wad of gum, haha.) 

I don't say all this to get attention for myself, or I would NEVER have said it.  So, let's not go there with me.  This is about children, and how the words of others, especially adults they look up to, affect them.  I say all this now because this is what I fear for my own children.  I know they will struggle with the way they view themselves.  I know they will have pain, because no matter how perfect they are, they won't realize it.  But, I pray and pray that they won't get stuck in this struggle.  That they will somehow become comfortable with themselves and not constantly compare themselves to others in an unrealistic, unhealthy way.  And I say this with all the love in my heart...if ANYONE says anything to them about being scrawny, or formless, or not pretty or handsome enough just the way they are....WATCH OUT!!!  I will protect them fiercely.  I will protect their feelings at the risk of hurting someone else's~no matter who you are.

I urge you to THINK about what you say to children, tween, teens, and even young adults.  We all know it's not nice to tell someone they are chubby or fat.  We know that hurts them and they often can't help it.  But, no one seems to think that teasing someone because they are super skinny is harmful.  Let me tell you from experience~That's A Lie!!!  Teasing a child about their body shape, whatever that shape is, can be harmful. And, if heard often enough, those lies will become truths to them and those beliefs are hard to overcome, even when they become adults, long after they stop looking like toothpicks.

Do tell children how beautiful they Really are.  Then, leave it at that.  Don't tell children how pretty they will be IF they gain weight or lose weight, or eat all the food on their plate, or go on a diet.  Urge them to eat healthy and exercise and take care of themselves, not because of how 'pretty' or 'handsome' it will make them, but because of how much we LOVE them!!!  STOP teasing!!  Do give sincere complements~without any Ifs, Ands, or Buts! 

God's own Word says, "I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.  Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well."  No ifs, ands, or buts.  Let's teach our children, all the children of the world, this.  They are fearfully and wonderfully made, just the way they are.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Cherdo on the Flipside

Hey, blog friends!!  I know, I's been a while.  But, I wanted to take a quick minute to encourage you to check out a new blog called, Cherdo on the Flipside.  I started reading a post the other day and couldn't stop at just one.  I had to read them all!!  It's witty, snarky, entertaining, and honest.  The author is a personal friend of mine who has also recently started stand-up comedy, among her many other talents.  
I'll start you out with this one about cutting your own bangs.    I also liked Flip that minimum wage job and No 5K...K?  These are just to name a few.  If you're a fellow blogger, let's help her out by reading, commenting, following, and perhaps even spreading the word.  Thanks!!
I'll meet you on the Flipside.  

Cherdo on the Flipside