Saturday, October 16, 2010

kids and parenting and weight

It's been hard and wonderful and educational and emotional to read all of the thoughtful posts this week about this subject so I want to thank everyone who posted or commented (though I'm sure I didn't see all the posts yet).

I was a fat kid, at least that's what I've always thought.  But in the last couple of years as I posted old pictures of my sister and me on Facebook I am seeing that I really wasn't.  I was certainly thicker than my tiny, twig-like sister, but I wasn't fat. 

(I updated blogger and can't make the pictures do what I want so sorry for the blank spaces)

I'm 2 years older than my sister and she's always been very, very thin and I was never very thin.  By junior high and high school I was beyond chunky.  And this isn't really the point.  The point is - I suffered from a mild form of depression for nearly all of my childhood and really on into college.  I was totally functional to the outside world and if you knew me back then you never would have suspected.  But the world was a very scary place and I really didn't know how to navigate within it - but I was really, really good at faking it.  Every bit of energy I had (which wasn't much) went into blending in, following the path of least resistance, mimicking what others did.  I did what I thought would give me the least amount of long term or real attention possible.  And the rest of the time I did my best to hide.  Here and there growing up I had what I then called 'moments of clarity'.  It was during those moments that I could ask my teacher a question, or later when I was older go in and fill out a job application, or just talk to someone new.

It wasn't until I was an adult and nearly married and suffered from a full blown case of depression and then ultimately came out of it with the help of therapy and drugs and the clouds parted and I could see the world clearly that I really understood what was going on when I was a kid.  Because when I came out of the depression as an adult and the world was clear - it was the exact same thing as my moments of clarity growing up.  The world might still be scary, but I was capable of doing things - asking questions, talking, being, breathing.

I remember very little from my childhood.  I wasn't abused, I was just living in a big, thick, deep fog.  I can't remember what my room looked like, or really even our house.  With a few exceptions, who my friends were, or how I spent my time.  It's now a family joke just how little I know from my childhood - I routinely call my sister or this friend who I've known since before kindergarten if I need to know something from back then.  The reason for the little trip down memory lane is that I think my childhood depression was significantly related to my body image - whether or not it was the correct image.  I was the fat one and I just didn't want to be that, so my brain hid for me.  

Deciding to have kids was really frightening for me.  Not only because I can't remember my own and don't have anything to draw on, but because I don't want any kid to have to hide that way - what I do remember isn't all that good.  I had a wonderful mom who I knew was always struggling with her weight and who put me on a diet every once in a while - but for the most part I don't think it was that huge a deal coming from her - but that's mostly a guess knowing her now.  Dan and I talked and talked about when and if we'd ever be ready and finally we had this amazing epiphany - No matter what we do, how good we are, how hard we try at some point our kids are going to end up in therapy blaming us for their crazy.  Maybe it'll be because we forced them to eat their vegetables, or maybe we made them study too hard or not enough - who knows, but there will be a reason and they will end up there.  It was pretty freeing actually.

But anyway - back to my point.  I had my first one at 32 and I vowed to myself then that if she (I believed I would only have girls) had weight problems I would move heaven and earth to make them go away while she was young.  I didn't know how at the time - but I believed then that the trauma of being fat as a girl growing up was worse than the trauma of losing weight during that time - or hopefully before that time.  I'm not sure I don't still believe that, but I don't currently have that issue.

Now to the parenting part - I have 2 boys.  One was born to eat and one was not.   Since birth Tommy has eaten like there was no tomorrow and the sweeter the better.  Neither of my kids had any sweets until their 1st birthday cake, so before then it was the sweeter things like sweet potatoes or corn for Tom.  My point is - while there's no doubt we teach some of this into or out of our kids - some if it they are just born with.  As much as Tommy likes to eat Jason could give a rats ass.  He'll want a big yummy chocolate sundae and then eat 3 bites and be done.  He's had enough.  Tommy will eat his and then beg for Jay's cuz it's a flat out crime to let all that goodness go to waste. 

They both play sports year round and I know that's helps - really it's critical.  Tommy was on his way to being chunky when he was put on a medicine that has a side effect of making him less interested in food when he was in 2nd grade.  He lost every bit of his chunk but I'm scared shitless that he'll get it back when he goes off this drug next year.  He only takes a tiny dose and it's half what he used to take, but still.  We don't make them clean their plates.  They don't get dessert every night.  They do have to eat at least some protein in order to get dessert on those nights we have it.  They've never known me to be on a "diet", I don't want them to see a big, long, constant struggle.  I'm honest, but I don't delve on things.  We always have fruit out and available and they are both addicted to it BUT neither Dan nor I cook.  We suck at regular good, balanced, healthy meals.  There are too many chicken nuggets and spaghetti.  Too much pizza or take out.  

We both work and they both play sports.  We have 2 soccer practices and 1 game each week for Tommy and 1 football practice and 1 game for Jason and Dan travels about 1/3 of the time - so there are just so many nights when there are 5 minutes for dinner in between homework and practice that we both rely on what's fast more than what's best.  We're better on the weekends, but in the past year I've really been trying to push health.  I still don't have off limit foods for them, but I'll comment about the health level of their choices.  I cook more - I just made my first soup - butternut squash and it was delish.

But - I am truly scared about this.  Tommy is on the cusp of puberty and I'm just scared to death what might happen to his weight if he stops playing sports.  I just really feel inadequate in this area.  So - I guess I had nothing to offer here - but it was cathartic to write it all out so thanks for that. LOL.  I think I still believe that the trauma of growing up fat is worse than the trauma of figuring out how to be healthy while you're still young.  But not having girls (which I think is different for this issue) and not having the issue probably severely colors my opinion on this right now.  So I guess.. I have no fucking idea.


Tina said...

I have only gotten as far as I have because of this labpand and the fact that I have had three daughters with different body types from child to adult..believe me without all of those I wouldn't even be as far as I am..and that distance is still filled with doubts :)

Great post. It is nifty to see so many perspectives on it.


Drazil said...

Having been through a major depression - I want to say I'm sorry for the pain I know you've felt. I'm so happy you are here in are truly a wonderful spirit and I love reading.

FitBy40 said...

Ugh, my 5 year old just had her check up and the doc said she is at the 90th percentile for weight, but only the 50th for height. He acted like it wasn't a big deal, but in my head all I could think about was "I don't want her to grow up being the fat kid!". I know exactly what you're feeling.