Sunday, November 4, 2012

So It Begins

Miss Awesome and I had a fight this morning. It was stupid, supposedly about her refusal to help empty the dishwasher but really about the tantrums she throws in an effort to get out of doing things she doesn't want to do. I sent both of us to our rooms to calm down, but not until after I'd gotten big and loud and maybe a little mean.

I angrily folded laundry for a while, and when my tears stopped and I could think straight again, I knocked on her door. I found her crouched over her Halloween stash, tearfully stuffing candy in her face. I took the sweets away, told her to apologize to her brother, and drifted back to my room. I was appalled that at age seven my daughter already is eating to deal with her emotions.

After another little while I returned to her room, lay down on the bed and held her. I told her I always love her. I apologized for being mean, but explained that she is part of the family and as such she is required to help out, whether or not she likes the task at hand. She apologized, too. We eventually worked our way back to equilibrium. 

When we were safe again, I asked about the candy. "It makes me feel good and helps me stop crying." she explained. I cringed inside, hearing such a simple truth from such a young girl. I know the physiology of it, how the sugar activates feel-good brain centers. How humans are pleasure-seeking animals. How this is natural and instinctive. I also know how devastating such a habit can be over the course of a lifetime. 

Until now I've tried to make food a neutral topic, neither good nor bad but a tool. Like all tools, food can be used well -- providing good nutrients that keep us strong and healthy -- or badly -- not giving us the energy we need and leading to weakness and unhealthiness. I've encouraged the kids to eat balanced meals and allowed sweets in moderation. Knowing that balance occurs over a lifetime, I've had some suppers that were awful nutritionally (but oh, so tasty!) and others that were nothing but vegetables (and just as tasty). Food is never good or bad, and certainly never "fattening". It's just healthy or less healthy. Through it all I've tried not to talk about anyone's appearance in terms of size or shape. I've been quiet about my own self-image and body issues. I make sure to show the kids a variety of body types as beautiful and healthy. I've taken great care to speak positively about my strength and abilities. My recent weight loss has been a private triumph of which the kids have been blessedly oblivious. 

But this morning I broke my self-imposed rule and talked about my weight. I told Miss Awesome that I got fat because I ate when I was sad, instead of addressing the underlying issues. I didn't eat healthy foods, and had too much candy. Over the years my body carried the bad decisions I made. I explained that it's better to cry all her tears out, take a breath, and deal with whatever made her sad. That food is not the answer. I admitted that sometimes I go into the bathroom and cry until I'm done, and then I can talk about whatever is upsetting me. I told her it took me a lifetime to learn, but candy is a treat, not a treatment.

Our conversation slowly meandered away from candy and eating, and after more cuddles we moved on to other activities. Violet reclaimed her candy with a promise not to eat too much, and I took that at face value. In the end I can only advise, not control. Still, I worry that she will follow me down the sedentary path, swallowing her sorrows, afraid to face her feelings. Like all parents I wish only the best for my child. Strange that a good cry and an empty belly are on that list.


  1. What a thoughtful, authentic and lovely post. I love how you said, "Food is just healthy or less healthy." Wisdom indeed!

  2. The heart and compassion and love in this post moves me. For you to be honest with your girl about your own body issues is probably the most helpful thing you could do for both of you--and for your future together. I have immense respect for everything you've written about (so beautifully) here.

  3. Oh, honey. What a difficult situation. It sounds like you handled it with grace and honesty. I wish I'd had a similar conversation with my mom at that age!

  4. So beautifully written and I can only imagine that your honesty with your daughter will lead to further honest, compassionate discussions in the future.♥
    How I wish my own mother had been aware of my pain as a child (and on into my teen years), for it was that young age when I first began turning to sugar for comfort.