Sunday, May 22, 2016

Girl, Gimme Your Digits

Sadly, I can recall what I weighed at varies milestones in my life - when I graduated high school, when I turned 21, after the birth of each of my three kids, when I turned 30, etc, etc. I know the lightest weight I have been as an adult and the heaviest. I think I became aware of the number on the scale somewhere around junior high, and probably around the same time I also became aware of the fact that I could very well be fat, or at least that the potential to get fat was a very real and scary possibility. So the race for the coveted prize began: to be skinny. For better or worse, the scale has been my ride or die partner through it all.

Thankfully, I never developed an eating disorder. However, I have let myself be drastically caloric deficient on more than one occasion, and I have tried some crazy diets. I think one of the craziest things I remember from high school was going all day without eating so I could drink a Sundrop - a very sugary, citrus soda - after school. Really? That is gross. Of course, the "break-up diet" was always a good one: too upset to eat and the scale is plummeting. At the end of a week, you are laughing at your ex because you obviously look really good and skinny now. Eat your heart out, sucker! Eat? Probably time for some french fries after the tragically sad week.

At twenty-one, I was pregnant with my first child. I was free, for the first time since I could remember, from this "I must be skinny" mentality. Not that being pregnant was the magical cure all for negative body image, but it did open my eyes to what I wanted to do. I wanted to make sure I never planted the fat seed in my child's head, and this meant some mental changes for me. I grew up with the adults around me talking about being fat and going on "diets". I decided to remove the word fat as a way of describing myself or anyone else.

As I said, the battle in my head still went on, but I made it a point never to use the word fat even when I was 50+ pounds over weight and ready to jump out of my skin. Guess what? My daughter actually thanked me for never making her feel she should look a certain way. Apparently, some of her friends had mothers who would tell them if they were "getting fat". Ouch! Not that Aynaka has never struggled with body image - society will always make sure we all question how we look and how we feel about our physical appearance - but, overall her self-image is healthy. She says it herself; "it's more important to be an individual with ideas and feelings and opinions." Her thanking me was definitely one of those maybe I was a good parent moments - as opposed to those I really sucked at that whole parenting thing moments. . . well, that's for another time.

Over the years, being healthy and feeling good have taken precedence over the number on the scale. It's important to take care of yourself. Obesity and sedentary lifestyle related health problems are serious, but it's healthy versus unhealthy- not fat versus skinny. I exercise hard and try to eat healthy so I can continue to feel strong as I age. I keep moving because I know if I stop moving, I'll stop moving. When I'm 75, I want to be speed walking in my velour sweatsuit. Well, maybe not velour - that stuff is itchy - but definitely speed walking and taking selfies for #FlexFriday.

The scale can still be a monkey on my back. Just today, the number made me start calling for the broccoli, but unlike 25 years ago, it doesn't control my mood or how I perceive myself. Regardless of what the number on the scale reads, I know what I can physically do and it is kind of impressive. Yes, I am impressed with myself - it's okay! It's okay to know your worth and own it. The fat seed tells us we shouldn't if we aren't a size 2, but look beyond that seed. Look beyond the scale or any outside force trying to make you feel unworthy. Focus on the things you love about yourself and everything else will fall into place.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Parenting Adults

I didn't take a sex education class in high school - I don't remember if one was even offered. However, I do remember my little sister bringing home one of the baby dolls with the key in its back. It would cry, and she would have to attend to the baby to make it stop. I only really remember her turning the key and holding it for long periods of time. I think something was actually wrong with her doll - all the key turning and holding would rarely ever stop the crying.

I already had one baby at the time my sister took this class, and it seemed like her ordeal was much more difficult than taking care of my own daughter; Aynaka cried if she was hungry, tired, or needed a diaper change, and I would correct the problem and the crying would stop. Complete and total control - how wonderful. To me, the key-backed baby didn't seem like a very effective tool to promote abstinence or prevent pregnancy - it wasn't realistic. Now, being a parent to two adults and an almost 16 year old, I'm here to tell you what could be an effective tool: you want teenagers to be aware of the complications of parenting, make them parent some young adults - now that's the down and dirty - the real nitty-gritty.

Complete and total control - I was a pro with my babies. I controlled what they ate, when they slept, and any of the influences of the world that I didn't see fit. Sure, I may have been slightly sleep deprived when they were newborns, but this was nothing I couldn't handle. It was exhausting, but it was still so easy to anticipate my children's every need. All I felt I needed to do was give them love and support, let them be themselves (actually a hard one sometimes because "themselves" could be so far out of my box), and most importantly, teach them independence and self-love - the formula to happy, confident kids. These confident kids would never have the insecurities I had, would never make the same bad decisions I made, and never struggle with the "who am I" the way I struggled. Easy, right? Now, I laugh at how completely off the mark I was.

I remember when I first found out that Aynaka was making some decisions that I knew weren't good for her - it scared me to my core. I won't give details - that is part of her story, and not mine to tell - but, I confronted her about it. I explained all my fears, the severity of her actions, and all the possible consequences. On the outside, I think I held it together rather well, but on the inside, it was as if I was trying to reach my favorite pen that I dropped in between my car seat and the center console. You know - when you can only get your hand a little way down and your fingers are too short to reach? You keep trying until your hand hurts - you may actually be bleeding - but you can never reach it? No? Hmmm...I actually really love pens. Pens are so pretty - pens, pens, pens. Anyway, where was I? Oh! I was losing the control I loved so much. Losing the ability to keep her totally protected from harm and heartache. Oh, Lort.

Over the years, I have had similar eye opening situations with all three of my kids, and each time my heart breaks for them in ways that it never broke for myself. I have watched my smart, talented, funny boys struggle - in ways I can't even comprehend - with how they should function in this world. How can this be? Their mother has told them how wonderful and amazing they are, but still they doubt? I. Can't. Reach. My. Pen.

It is natural for parents to blame themselves when their children struggle. I am friends with some of the best moms in the world, and each one of them have questioned the choices they've made in their parenting. One of my friends has said to me several times: "A mother is only as happy as her saddest child." How true and powerful is this statement? When my kids were little, I was the one to assure them everything would be okay. Now, when I know they are struggling with something, I hold my breath until they give me that assurance: "I'm okay, Mom." Sweet music to my ears.

Maybe I joke when I say parenting adults would be an effective way to prevent teenage pregnancy, but it's not for the weak - that's for sure. Truth be told, my kids are amazing. They are independent, smart, and caring individuals. The relationships they have with each other make me extremely happy, and I know they will all find their way. They are human - they will have insecurities, doubts, fears, consequences, and times that will seem unbearable. But, I know they will always have me to pray for them and love them unconditionally. Through all of it, I'll be ripping my cuticles trying to grab that dang pen.