Sunday, 25 March 2012

Just Thinking...

I have been thinking...

Whenever I say this my hubby rolls his eyes and tells me he doesn't want to hear about it... bit mean huh!!!!! He knows he is going to hear about it anyway though - so it is quite a futile reaction really ;-)!!!!!

Anyway - I was talking to a friend the other day who also has a daughter, and then two days later there was an article in an old magazine I randomly picked up at Labtests; and I have had numerous discussions on this with friends and my sis-in-law also (the local one with daughters)... over the years.

The other night hubby told me he thought (thinks) I am beautiful - he doesn't say it very often, and normally there is something that sparks a comment such as this. But this was just 'out of the blue'; and took me by surprise... I didn't really respond at the time, but later asked him what it was that had attracted him to me. He said he can't think of anything specific - it was rather the 'whole package' (for those unaware, we flatted together for a number of months before sparks flew... so I guess he'd had time to get to know me as a 'whole' person/package *grin* through that time; so his answer does make sense)!

I had a bit of a melt-down (this was late one evening as we were meant to be drifting off to sleep) and muttered that I felt ugly - you know the story, blah-blah-blah. This was before all the 'coincidences' (God-incidences) later in the week; but this is why it all made sense to me and got me thinking...

Anyway - my friend had been talking about her daughter growing up in a society that puts so much pressure on females to have a certain look; and that while she knows it will be inevitable, she never wants to think that her daughter could ever think she is ugly. It reminded me of my little melt-down at the time (not that I mentioned it *cringe*), and then the article also discussed how we unconsciously pass on our issues to our children by the way we act and interact with others, but especially how we respond to compliments. My hubby always tells me off when I react negatively - he says it is also putting him down, as I am telling him his judgement is wrong.

Anyway - the point is, does anyone else struggle with this? Am I a little OTT about all this (hubby thinks I am...) or is it normal for Mums to be worrying about how they are effecting their children and their futures?

I am aware that Button is at the age where she is soaking EVERYTHING in... we are having to stop and be so much more aware of what we say, how we talk to each other, how we react to each other and others, and even our reactions towards others who aren't around (or situations on TV etc). 

Some of the ways we are trying to combat the images from society is by constantly telling her how much we love her, how beautiful she is, how amazing we think she is etc. Hubby is very good at this also; he is aware how important a fathers opinion/role on this is to their daughters, and has made it his job to make sure Button leaves home with a very healthy self-confidence/image. He also challenges her constantly - making sure she is safe of course, but really pushes her to try new things and not hide away. Take this for example:

Crazy? Or teaching her that heights aren't to be feared if precautions are taken... or maybe just teaching her to change a lightbulb? I'm not sure - I took the photo and then disappeared until I knew they were down safely; my poor heart. She loved it and went to climb the ladder on her own today when she saw it ;-)!

It's a good thing she has a Daddy who will challenge her and encourage her to try new things - I'd tend to wrap her and any/all other children in cotton wool... the thought they could get hurt physically and emotionally tends to tear at the heart a bit.

There is so much more buzzing around in my head about this... but I am tired and just not sure how to word it. But the responsibility is HUGE; we really do have the ability to shape these little lives positively or negatively just in how we live each day. You don't actually realise how much you take in until someone challenges you as an adult - and you realise you're responding/doing something 'because that is the way it is done' (or should I say - that is the way our family did it). It is moments like this that give you a 'lightning' moment, even if it's totally innocuous and has no ramifications on anyone else... how much of our lives are lived just because it was done 'that way'  growing up? 

How much of our own self-image is tainted by where we grew up? Obviously it is also tainted by society, our own personal circumstances and many other things also... but I am not into blaming my parents for all my foibles - I think this is weak, wrong and totally detracts any responsibility I have in directing my own life. So don't take me the wrong way - I only ask because another friend of mine has consciously chosen to watch what she eats, in order to lose weight - but has been careful how she has worded it to her children; she just talks about eating healthy and looking after herself... Her older girls are currently 10 and 8 (although this conversation took place a while ago now), and are at the age where they are very body-aware; they're not in the slightest bit fat, and my friend doesn't ever want them to think they are - so this is an area she is choosing to be very pro-active in. Button isn't at that point yet; but it is something I will need to watch as I tend to go up and down with my weight regularly; eating is a safety net for me.

And as a soon-to-be-Mum of a little boy... do I need to be as aware of this with him as I am with Button? I know there are certain things I need to be conscience of; or is this where the Dad's insecurities come into play? Do Dad's even think through these things on a deeper level - I know my husband does to a certain degree, but it is not something that keeps him awake at night (where it does me).

Yep - I've been thinking (and this is why Hubby rolls his eyes when he hears me utter those words)!!!!!


Miriam said...

Great post - I am hyper aware they are always listening to the ways we talk about ourselves AND others!!! From my reading with boys it is vital our boys feel capable. I also never want them to hear me being derogatory about men in general. Our boys need respect and they need to know they CAN do things and solve problems (as well as the fact we think they are gorgeous!)

MaxineD said...

Yup - it is an awesome responsibility to bring up little people - that's why we need to rely on God for help. Yes our past does influence our present, but as you noted, we can choose to change or not.

Ruth said...

Great post! With my boys I don't think so much about their body image but I am very conscious of how they express their masculinity. Learning to be adventurous and take risks without being stupid and dangerous, managing their feelings and emotions and sharing these with others, being able to stand up for their own opinion and being able to have a bit of rough play and fun but also being respectful of others and making sure it is fun for everyone. 

I think being thoughtful of what we do and say is a great start. The scary thought is that half (eek perhaps more) the stuff our children learn we probably teach them unconsciously. I wonder what my children see when they look at my life and what they think is important to me... 

Amy said...

Really thoughtful and provocking post, Elizabeth. I think body awareness is probably much more a girl-thing than a boy-thing, but I'm aware raising a boy that he needs to be told (and have it implied) that he can do things (that he is capable, as Miriam put it). And that we love him. We are trying to be proactive in saying we love him often, letting him explore who he is and helping him develop a good self image. I do think that how we view ourselves will rub off on our kids in some way, but that how we choose to use our words and express our emotions is probably the most important thing (sometimes I think adults forget to explain things to kids thinking they don't get it at all, when really they do, just not fully, so an explanation of why Mummy is feeling sad, or whatever sometimes can be more appropriate than we realise, helping our kids learn emotional language).

Amy said...

And perhaps you and Mr C balance each other out well? Put together in partnership for a reason. The challenger, and the nuturer?