I'm trying to keep my business, my triplets, and my waistline under control. I excel at one of those, fail at another one of those, and one is a work in progress. Which is which is day dependant.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Say The Right Thing

I took my pre-teen daughters shopping today. We had to stock up on summer clothes for them, so it was a shopping expedition they were really looking forward to. Funnily enough we haven't had to do this very often in their lives, because when they were small (and even in recent times) they've had the good fortune of inheriting a heap of stuff from their older cousins. Since older girl cousins are of course the MOST awesome people on the whole planet, their taste in clothes is also apparently awesome, and their hand me downs are something to fight over rather than scorn. Heaps of hand me downs coupled with trips to the US where I buy out half of Old Navy means we've not really had very many shopping adventures together thus far.

Today, armed with some money (always a good idea), a list of what we needed, and a determination that I was NOT going to get rail roaded into buying cheap crap, we headed off for the local shopping monolith. One of the chores on the list was to buy jeans for DD2, who (other than when she was a toddler, and even then I can't really recall it happening) has never owned or worn jeans. She decided it was time to buy a pair and so that was really our biggest challenge, particularly since she is of the "if it's not yoga pants, it's not comfortable" style of fashionista.

I decided that if I left her to it, we'd never get anywhere - so I left her in a cubicle with a bunch of stuff she'd picked, and then I ran around the store picking out jeans and flinging them over the door at her, with a mumbled, "All jeans are cut different, just try these ones!" She eventually found a pair which she really liked - and she walked out of the dressing room to get a second (and third) opinion from me and her sister. They looked really good, or at least DD1 and I thought so. DD2 then made a comment which made me rapidly suck in my breath. "I like them too! They're totally comfortable and I like that they are a little stretchy so they make my thighs look smaller."

My DD's are 11 years old. 11 years old is a ridiculous age to be thinking about buying pants which make your thighs look smaller. In that singular moment, I felt a little piece of my heart break for my beautiful daughter, that she would even need to consider something like that when looking in a mirror.

However, let's face facts here, shall we? She is the child of two overweight parents. She is very tall for her age, and she definitely has a softer body type - genetically speaking, I'm pretty sure there are no lithe bodies anywhere in our collective family trees, so it's really not a big surprise that she is who she is. She is also the child of someone who has had a very public, very obvious battle with weight, and she needs look no further than photos of her childhood to see evidence of that, where her Mum looks like the great shrinking - and then the great growing, then shrinking again - woman. She is also a product of the modern age, and of social media - where body types, commentary on bodies, and a general pre-occupation with weight, size, appearance and diet are part of the social norm. On the one hand, her comment totally threw me for a loop. On the other, it really wasn't surprising at all and if I'm honest with myself, what is surprising is that it's taken this long for something like this to be said.

They don't give you a mothering handbook for these moments - and even if they did, who says you would have it on you right when they make a comment like that? In those few seconds I really had to have an internal debate with myself about what my next comment might be. I could take the "Oh Mum, of COURSE you would say that!" route of, "What are you talking about, you're beautiful!" I could take the ignore-it-completely route, the sarcasm route, the brutal honesty route. I knew that whatever came out of my mouth next had the twin abilities to either hurt or help and I was going to make damn sure I said the right thing.

Let's be even more honest here - I've endured a lifetime of poor self-worth, poor body image, and a Mum who very lovingly told me in the same breath that I was beautiful, but that I would look so much prettier "if only I lost a little weight" so people could see my face better. So to say I am a bit sensitive about this topic would be the understatement of the year. 

I've got no idea if I said the right thing at all, I really don't. I just did the best I could with the resources I had at the time, and a fierce desire to not make this into a big thing.  I was cognizant of the fact that making it into a big deal would in fact make it INTO a big deal, and I didn't want that to happen but nor did I want to ignore it totally.

So here's what I said - "Firstly, those jeans are totally cute and I think they really suit your body shape. Not all styles of jeans look good on everyone's shape, but those ones look really good on you. You look totes adorbs!* Secondly, it's not like you have anything other than the right size thighs to begin with. So, are we buying them?"

(I wouldn't normally use a pre-teen expression like "totes adorbs" but I was trying to relate here, okay?)

I went the route of acknowledging it, but making no big thing of it. This afternoon I've found myself really debating if I should sit her (and her sister) down to have a big ol' talk about body image. I don't think I'll bother, actually. What pre-teen listens to her mother anyway? So I'm just going to keep doing what I am doing - which is acknowledge her comments, remind her that she is loved, that she has so much to be proud of, and that the world is full of people in all shapes and sizes. I'll continue to encourage her to get exercise, feed her good quality food, and be supportive when she finds clothes which are flattering (and honest when she finds clothes which are not.) She tried on some stuff today which didn't suit her at all, to which my comment was, "I don't think it suits you as well as (the blue one did) (the more structured one did) (that last one did). I think your body type looks better in...." The advantage of having a sibling the exact age but an entirely different body type also helps - because now DD2 might pick up something and say, "This is super cute but I know that this kind of thing doesn't suit me (or "just isn't my thing"), maybe DD1 might like it." 

Frankly, as a female, half the battle is finding the structure, fabric and style of clothes which suit you in the first place.  In my case, my height and proportions mean I always look ridiculous in layered, flowing clothes, in anything too orange or yellow, and wrap-around anything is no friend of mine. I also give anything with a band right below the boobs a big miss, because I prefer to avoid looking like I am wearing a circus tent. A big lesson today really was about working out what suits as much as working out what feels good. 

We ended up having a glorious, giggly, fun afternoon together. We wandered in and out of various shops, bought plenty of necessary stuff but a few 'treat' items as well - and just had a really great time together. Neither my daughters nor I will ever be the supermodels on the runways of Paris or Milan ... but I'm pretty sure none of us wish to be, either. For now, I'm still celebrating the big win of getting my girl into a pair of (flattering, comfortable, affordable) jeans - and you know what? Her butt looks GREAT in them (and yes, she asked ...and yes, both DD1 and told her the truth about it.)

1 comment:

amomwithnails said...

I think you did great, but what do I know? Hey from the other side of the pond, and bring on the NBPM!! I'm going to be here reading for awhile!
Laura