Last week Mark had an orphan conference in Santa Barbara to attend and as it was the kid’s Spring Break (and my trip to Haiti got cancelled) we decided to go a few days early and stop in Anaheim.
We are EXTREMELY blessed to have friends who work for Disney and can get our entire family into the park for free (the ONLY way we’re able to go as often as we do). We dragged Mark’s sister who’s visiting from England, her 2 daughters (5 months and 2.5 yrs), and his mom along with us.
Before we even got on the shuttle to head to the park, 2 of our children were having the pouts. Not entirely surprising – sometimes BIG days are even harder on adopted kids. But usually they snap out of it fairly quickly.
Well 3 hours later and the pouts were still hanging on and bringing the rest of us down a bit too. Luke wasn’t too bad, but Beza was definitely having trouble getting over whatever it was that had started it. Mark was tempted to take everyone back to the hotel and make them nap.
Instead I sent him on ahead with everyone else, and me and Beza found a bench to sit on so we could talk it out.
To make a long story short, that morning they were gathering snacks from the car and Luke made a joking comment which she interpreted to mean “he thinks I’m fat”. (Come to find out later that Dad had dealt w/ it at the time and made Luke apologize, etc but obviously she was not over it.)
Already at 10 Beza is very self-conscious about her body. I’m not sure if it is because she is the same size as Luke who is 18 months older or what it mainly stems from. In no way is she the LEAST bit overweight. Her main complaint (maybe her only complaint) is her thighs. She has larger thighs but the are SOLID MUSCLE. She has gymnast legs, or runner legs – not an ounce of fat on them. It’s not surprising to me because she is very athletic and both their parents were fairly tall (as much as we can tell from pictures).
Nevertheless she is extremely sensitive. She’s given me capris and said she doesn’t like to wear them because they “make her look fat”.
I’ve given her the same speech a MILLION times – your not fat, your strong, your legs are muscular, your healthy, your beautiful, etc.
But she’s fixating on that word “fat”.
I’m sure you won’t find what I did next in any award-winning parenting books. (Some people may even be offended but dude, I was desperate.)
I started watching the hundreds of people walking by us. I would have her look at a certain person and tell me whether or not she thought they were overweight. (I may or may not have used the word fat – I normally don’t but for learning purposes I might have, can’t remember.) We looked a people who were overweight by varying degrees but also people who had all kinds of body shapes and sizes – people who were tall and big but NOT overweight. I even tricked her and pointed to a VERY obviously pregnant person. (She was too smart for me though.)
I gave her the whole “God makes us all different” speech. Explained that for some people it’s really easy to stay skinny and some people have to work SUPER hard to not be overweight. I told her that more than anything what’s important is that a person is treating their body well and being healthy. That’s why we work super hard to eat healthy in our family while still enjoying the occasional dessert or treat.
I don’t know if this episode will have any more of a lasting impact than others I’ve had but it did get her out of her slump that day.
Again, I’m sure my technique was NOT the greatest but desperate times sometimes call for a thinking outside of the box.
Any advice from anyone else dealing with body image and their daughters?