One of my fellow bloggers wrote a post about “Listening Ears” and referenced her 3 year old and how he soaks in everything they say and do (and don’t say and don’t do…). What a great post it was, because it reminded me that it continues, FOREVER. Once they hit school age (or even before if they do daycare/preschool, etc.) they’re not just influenced by us but by peers, teachers and everyone they come into contact with.
I now have an 8 year old daughter and the other day, she said, “Mom, am I fat?” EIGHT, folks. I died a little inside at that moment. I pulled it together and told her she absolutely was not, then turned it back to her and asked if she thought she was fat. Her response was, “Well, I mean, maybe. I’m not super skinny like (friend) and I have this (and pointed to her belly which always gets a little plump right before she has a giant growth spurt, which she’s due for).” We talked about self-esteem, if she liked the way she looked, if she cared about what other people think, if she SHOULD care about what other people think, what a healthy person looks like…all those things that we want our kids to think through instead of focusing on unhealthy self image.
But here’s the truth: She’s 8. She hangs out with a lot of other girls at school who have already told each other what they can and can not wear, what they can and can not do, who they can and can not be friends with. This happened way earlier than I expected it to, but it is happening (and I’m sure she’s not so innocent in this!) So now we’re talking, or amping up the conversation.
We’re talking about how chocolate milk every day at lunch instead of white milk or *GASP* water isn’t always the best choice. We’re talking about snack options like cucumbers and grapes instead of a junk food if we’re still hungry. We’re talking about going outside and playing instead of spending all Saturday in front of the TV. We’re talking about the best things about ourselves, and acknowledging the things we don’t like so that we can learn to be okay with them and accept them and not them be targets for other people to use against us (well, that’s not how you present it to an 8 year old, but stick with me here). We’re just…talking. And a lot of this she knows because we’ve talked before. But she needs to hear it and she needs to know healthy choices and healthy attitude go hand in hand. So we’re talking. And sometimes we’re not. Sometimes we’re just going back to sitting on the couch and snuggling and getting away from it all. Because sometimes, being 8 is emotionally exhausting and 8 is still my baby.