Tuesday, August 5, 2014

On Why What They Overhear Matters

"Your voice becomes your child's inner voice" are most definitely wise words to take to heart. I think the phrase should be modified slightly to "Your words directly to your child, what they overhear, and what you model in your life becomes their inner voice."

 It always happens to me at a gathering outside of my closest friends. A couple of women are talking, sometimes idle chatter or polite small talk, sometimes about something interesting. Then the conversation takes a sharp left turn into the newest diet/how much weight so and so lost/how fat someone feels/ those five pounds they gain. My eyes instantly glaze over. I don't think anything ruins a meal for me more than when someone talks the whole time about how much calories are in it and whether they "deserve" to eat it or not based on what else they've eaten that day.

I grew up around this chatter and learned it well. Something in my brain absorbed in my surroundings this constant talk of "right" food, talking about the losing ten pounds, opening conversation with how someone looks like they lost weight - are the ways women talk to other women.

It's imprisoned me for years, made me feel self conscious and worst of all, subconsciously sabotaged deeper conversations that I could be having.

Those of you who know me in person know that I'm overweight. It started as an antidote to the crazed, navel-gazing vanity that consumed my life for years and turned into a lifelong battle of wearing life's wounds on the outside of my body. I'm working on it. And by that, I mean the root problems, not just the calories.

Meanwhile, my daughters are learning what it means to be a woman from me and the other women that they see regularly - their grandmothers, aunts, my closest friends. Whether we all are willing to take on the task of being examples to emulate, it's ours anyway. And I don't want me daughters obsessing about five pounds and thigh gaps when they are nine years old. Or ever, really.

I have great friends now who rarely talk about size. Books on our reading lists, recipes, faith, our interior lives, marriage, community, our children - these are normal topics of conversation. Years and years of healing have brought me to these full, rich friendships. It's jarring for me to overhear other women's conversations and how the diet/exercise/personal appearance topic is in such high rotation.

Ladies, listen to me.

It's not unfeminine to be hungry.

It's not unwomanly to eat food to satisfaction.

It's not a mark of being female to be obsessive about food intake, thigh gaps, exercise, etc, etc.

I'm not saying I want my girls to be overweight. I'm saying I don't want them, at any weight, even their ideal weight, to struggle with the pathological thought that food and one's size must be obsessed and hyper analyzed until they are reduced to vain shells of who they used to be. Because I've been there. It's a terrible, hellish wasteland. 

Looking at the Christian faith, much points to the fact that the body is good. Christ came in human form. The death of the body. The resurrection of the body. Hundreds of years ago, heresies were refuted that said that the body was bad or inconsequential. The body is a great thing. It brings life. 

I recently got to see a dear college friend who is now a Carmelite sister. She was gushing over our girls and remarking how well we seemed to be doing. She kept repeating to me how good we seemed and how happy I seemed. I knew what she meant. I was kind of a mess and a not very peaceful person when we were friends. At one point in my life, I desperately longed for a vocation to religious life. But I can see my friend now and see why her vocation is right for her and mine is most definitely right for me. 

Marriage and motherhood has peeled back my ugliest layers of selfishness and pain. It has made my mind and body ripe for healing. Marriage and motherhood - completely giving my saggy, embarrassing, stretch-marked body to my family in every way that marriage requires -has redeemed it. Seeing my two amazing girls and knowing that my body grew their bodies, birthed their bodies, nourished their bodies has been my resurrection. I am grateful God knew me so intimately that He knew that the way I could heal and redeem the wounds of my body in such a specific, excruciating way could not be realized in religious life. I understand his big, clear NO when I asked him if He might call me to be a nun. Because for me, this is far more redeeming.

As for their views of their bodies, these spunky almost 2 and 3.5 year olds couldn't be prouder. Evie loves when her hair is down and flowing and crazy (she told me it makes her feel beautiful). She thinks the hair on her legs helps her breathe. Jo is proud of her climbing skills (and practices often) and rejoices over each body part as she learns to say its name. They're proud of their strength and flexibility. They have hearty appetites and love to pick vegetables straight from the garden into their mouths. 

And I have a lot to learn from them.


  1. I love you and your beautiful family.

  2. Seriously every time you write something it pierces my soul in such a profound way. Thanks for sharing! =)