Written by: T.M. Brunson
AMI mommies are craving information about how to talk to their kids about their bodies. I have tried to be open with my older girls about their bodies. I've tried not to subject them to the same talk that I got when I was their age from all kinds of people: "You better stop eating the way you do or you'll end up like...;" "Don't eat this;" "Don't eat that;" "You better go outside and exercise."
I've tried. I'm not perfect.
You'd think that these kinds of messages could be taken with a grain of salt; but they stick with you. I know...from personal experience...because they still stick with me.
I've battled weight issues most of my teen/adult life. It really wasn't until I got to college that these issues really began. (Those "Freshman 15" lbs will get you every time!) Then, it wasn't an issue again until I left working in New York and moved to Maryland.
I don't know if it was the fact that I had to drive everywhere instead of walk. Or if it was just complacency because I was happy at the time... But I was well over 200lbs.
And then when I started having kids, I was pushing close to 250lbs. And it wasn't just the fact that doctors told me that I was "morbidly obese;" but it was moreso the fact that I wasn't healthy—because you can be over 200lbs and still be healthy. It all depends on your height and your BMI (body mass index). But me...I was constantly tired...lethargic. I had no motivation to get up and go.
I didn't start seeing my older girls feel differently about their bodies until last year (ages 11 and 12). One daughter had just went through a phase between 9-10 when she gained weight. She wasn't eating more. Her body was just changing. She was super skinny at 9 and a little chunky at 10. And, of course, a lot of the older generations in our family had something to say about it.
I just tried to get her active. She joined the track team with her sister, even though she wasn't a runner; but, she's competitive. Her dad started riding his bicycle with her. It was until she got her dream about joining the cheer team did the weight start coming off. She became more active. She went to practices. She got taller.
Now, I have another daughter who is going through her "awkward" phase. She's tall, so she's carrying the weight a little differently. They both have boobs. One has a butt. They both have pubic hair. They both got their periods at age 12.
When they got their periods, I wanted that day to be remembered forever. I wanted it to be special like Claire Huxtable did for Lil' Rudy on "The Cosby Show." That episode is classic (start at 1:51 in the link)! I should've written down the dates my daughters got their periods. I didn't. Too many things going on. I regret it now.
I remember when I got my first period. No one told me that I didn't have to stop wearing a pad after it stopped until my mom saw me bending over to run a bath and noticed me still wearing a pad, two weeks after my period had ended. She was like, "What in the world!"
So, of course, that's the first thing I taught my daughters about their period. Everyone is so different, I realized. One kid gets cramps. Another doesn't. One kid gets it for seven days. The other only gets it for three days. One kid gets very sleepy the week before. Another one is straight up !@#$%-y. I really should have stock in Always with all the girls I have!
I also taught them something that I adopted in college—I called my period, Molly. A lot of my friends do too, now. And, I've passed that one to my girls. Back in the day, she might've been referred to as Aunt Flo; but today, it's Molly (and this was way before that drug ever came out!)
We were sitting at the table one day and one of my daughter's says, "Molly hasn't visited me this month yet." A younger daughter looks up and rightfully asks, "Who's Molly?" Their father was quietly laughing from the living room, I found out later.
I can only speak to about girls because that's all I have. When my girls were little, they had no concept of body parts or being ashamed. They would run around naked after a bath and think it was funny.
I remember, about two years ago, they started becoming more body conscious and more aware of their changing bodies.
I went to help one daughter wash her back and she kept screaming, "Don't look at me! Don't look at me!" My response: "You came out of MY body, you know that, right?"
I didn't know how to broach the subject about their ever-changing bodies any more than I already had, so I gave them a book called, "The Girl's Body Book." I told them both to read it; and, if they had any questions, to ask me and we could talk about it.
They didn't ask any questions but they said they liked the book. And, when I asked for the book this morning, thinking about how I should pass it down to my 9-year-old, the 12-year-old said, "Don't take my book! It has memories!"
So, I will buy a book that was recommended by AMI Mommy, Rebecca. It's called "Celebrate Your Body" by Sonya Renee Taylor. Perfect for ages 8+.
Some other AMI mommies, such as Mary-Kate and Stefanie, recommend books from the American Girl company, like "The Care & Keeping of You: The Body Book for Younger Girls" and "The Care & Keeping of You: The Body Book for Older Girls."
I have younger daughter who still has accidents overnight; but her friends are starting to get their periods already! I can't even imagine having a kid who has her period and who wets the bed. I've been asked by other moms if I have her in therapy for this issue. No, I don't. One of my other daughters went through the same thing.
I don't have any cause for concern, yet. She's afraid of the dark and doesn't want to get up at night. I get it. Bought her a nightlight and we had a good stretch of no accidents, but the battery ran out. I need to remedy that situation so I can stop doing more than 10 loads of laundry per week!
In a perfect world, my girls would embrace their bodies and love their bodies all the time; but sometimes I hear "My butt is too big," "My stomach is too fat," "I need to go on a diet," or "I wish I had abs." Don't we all, honey, don't we all...
Question(s) of the Day
How do you all talk to your kid(s) about their bodies? Do you use proper names, depending on their ages, or have you used any versions of "hoo-ha" and "wee-wee" like me?
For those of you mommies with boys, how and when do you discuss their body image? Does it happen organically?