Monday, February 16, 2009

Kind Words

When I was a kid, my parents taught me to be polite. You didn't point at people or stare and whisper when you saw someone who was different. My Dad taught me that there was always a backstory. That homeless guy begging on the street was somebody's son. He might have fought in Vietnam. That kid with one arm is already suffering enough without you making fun of their difference. The bald kid might have cancer. He taught me to treat everyone with dignity and think before I speak.

This lesson was driven home for me when I was in third grade. My parents had taken me to the eye doctor and found that I needed glasses. I was still innocent enough that I didn't associate anything negative with glasses. In fact, my Dad got me all excited about it. He had glasses... I was going to look really great! My parents made a game out of it by taking me for a new haircut on the same day that I got my new glasses. "Your friends and your teacher will think there is a new student in the class! Won't it be fun to surprise them?" I couldn't wait to go back to school with my new look!

My happiness was shattered on the playground with taunts of "four eyes! four eyes! four-eyed freak!" I went home in tears. I never wanted to wear those glasses again. But I had to. And I endured those taunts from the mean kids for a long time. It taught me what compassion means at a very early age.

When I had children of my own, I tried to teach them to be polite. Comments about a person's age, or weight, or missing arm were not okay. Even when they were very small, I could often see the little light bulb go on in their heads when they saw something they'd never seen before: a woman with a beard, a child with no foot, a morbidly obese woman. But to my relief they usually just looked at me and then waited until we were alone to ask me about it. It gave me many opportunities to teach them about WHY people are different without hurting anyone's feelings. I mean, little kids naturally blurt things out sometimes... they don't always have the understanding that what they are saying could hurt someone. So when I hear a little one in the grocery store saying "Mommy does that lady have a baby in her tummy?" or "Mommy why is that big man riding a scooter in here?" I know they are innocent questions, not meant to hurt. Much like the time my very verbal 2-year-old son saw a dark-skinned woman in a checkout line and blurted out, "LOOK! That lady is made of chocolate!!"

So it was that last fall, I was walking with my 3-year-old daughter in the airport. It was late at night, and we had a long layover and delayed flight. As we walked around the airport, it wasn't very crowded. The people who were there seemed as tired as we were. Everyone looked like they just wanted to get home and go to bed. As we walked, a very large woman slowly walked past us, looking tired. My daughter glanced over and in a loud voice, started to comment. I knew the lady was within earshot and I had NO idea what my daughter was about to say. Out it came: "Mommy! That lady is BEAUTIFUL!" The lady stopped, turned around and smiled at my daughter, and said, "Thank you! You are so sweet!" And she walked off with a smile on her face and her head held a little higher. And she WAS beautiful... she had on a very pretty dress and jewelry, had her hair done and was well groomed, and that is what my daughter saw. Not her morbid obesity. Her beauty. It made me really proud.

Well, yesterday went okay eating-wise. I had oatmeal with apples for breakfast and a big spinach/romaine salad with salmon in it for lunch. The waffle dinner didn't happen, and I ended up with a cup of Easy Mac and some leftover chocolate-dipped fruit. And the truffles... I had 4. I didn't exercise because I always take one day off per week, and that was my day.

My successes this week: I ate well most of the time. I had 2 days of going off plan, but 5 great days. I biked six days and strength trained two days. I feel like I got my exercise habit back on track and I feel great about that! I also lost 2 pounds this week: started last Monday at 237, and today I was 235. I am PMSing at the moment, and rather bloated, so hoping for a better loss this week.

Now I am off to ride my bike and run errands. Have a super Monday :)

17 comments:

rusty61 said...

I was brought up the same as you, to never be unkind to people or when talking about them. I find sometimes that people think I'm not for real, but who cares, I feel like I'm a nice person.

I loved the story of your daughter, and you must have been so proud of her. I'm sure your parents would be thrilled to know how far their lessons have carried.

Thanks for the great post!

bbubblyb said...

Nice post Lyn, I bet you were proud of your daughter, how sweet.

Glad you had a good day and successful week.

Vickie said...

my son, who is now 19, saw an elderly african american man with a long white beard when he was 2 or 3. He was sure it was Santa and the man very kindly talked to him (we were at the library). I am sure this story was told and retold at his house over the years - he told me that african american children often thought he was santa - but he had never had a 'white' child have that same genuine, joyous reaction.

And the flip side - my 11 year old - when she was 2 or 3 was at a pilates class with me (yes, she was supposed to be there) and when a very heavy lady said (out loud to herself) - "I just don't know why I can't ever do these sit ups!" my daughter went over and said in a loud stage whisper - "it is because you are fat". I didn't say a word - I figured nothing I said would make it better - and after all the child was just answering what she thought was a question.

new*me said...

I talk to my kids about that too :) I think we really need to educate our kids......politeness is not America's best habit!

Congrats on the 2 lb loss! That is great!!!!

erin said...

What a great post, and it sounds like your daughter has learned well!

I got glasses when I was in first grade, and I remember the taunting as well. It's funny because now I think "four eyes" is such a lame insult, but at the time it really stung.

Congrats on the loss!

Meg said...

I'm sure your little sweetheart made that lady's day. Mine, too!

El Jo said...

I have a physical disability. While I once cringed when a child would say something or ask questions about it, I now realize that their inquisitiveness is healthy... I now rush (before the parent intervenes) to compliment the child for asking and it usually fosters a great conversation. Hopefully, my attitude lessens the parent's emabarrasment and conveys the message that being disabled is something that is ok to talk about and to notice. It kinda removes the stigma. Great post. Thanks, Lyn.

Estela said...

Great post! My son is 29, my daughter is 26 and I raised them alone, their father walked out when my daughter was 9 days old. I raised my children EXACTLY as you mention in your post...you DO NOT stare, you ask ME questions later, and you NEVER make fun of anyone for any differences you see. I can't begin to tell you the # of times I have been complimented on what wonderful kids I raised. Makes my chest fill with pride! :-)

Estela in South TX

KK @ Running Through Life said...

What a lovely story about your daughter and it shows how great you are raising her.

Congrats on your progress and accomplishments this week!

aileen said...

I just was doing a Google search on self-love, because a friend of mine is, in her words, "working really hard to give myself the love that I crave from others."

I came across your blog to the Week 8: Love Yourself post. I clicked to current, because the blog intrigued me.

I've had weight issues of not too tremendously obese proportions, but certainly enough to have made enough of my life miserable.

So I began reading Kind Words. I, too grew up with the lessons of not making fun of others. Also because my father is legally blind, I learned that which some others spoke of, the honst inquisitiveness of the young, and when it's channeled, it is a path to joyous learning.

But the story of your daughter's speaking of the woman's beauty just made me weep with the openness, uncluttered by prejudice perspective of a child.

Thank you. I am going to subscribe to your blog, and hopefully gain something: inspiration.

Sara said...

I think you can almost always be kind, and it's a great lesson to pass on to our children. Many a rude comment has been explained away by the whole idea that honesty is somehow always laudable in polite conversation. Somewhat of a crock, if you ask me.

I also think, however, that innocent questions or comments need not be shooshed or apologized for. I vividly remember being at a 4th of July party several years ago and the 4 year old son of some friends of ours sat next to me and asked "Whe are your legs so big?" I recall being a little stung for a moment, and then a look into his wide eyes and curious face convinced me that his question was worth answering. We had a lovely, age appropriate little conversation about size and body shapes and that experience has stuck with me all these years.

Of course I also remember being the victim of a drive by "moo-ing" when I was out walking...and that one was less pleasant.

I suppose, like many things, it's all about intent.

15lbs_down_girl said...

interesting story about your daughter and ABSOLUTELY GREAT job on reacting to how you and your ex-husband interacted. i am so serious, damn good job, your practice of learning not ot binge is SURE paying off, i'm happy for you lyn, good job.

Charlie Hills said...

Great story. :)

Andrew is getting fit said...

Your daughter is an angel!

Hanlie said...

I'm often dismayed at the cruelty of American kids and even adults. Well done for teaching your children a better way! Great story, by the way!

Dinah Soar said...

I don't want to start a fight but I take issue with the snipe Hanlie took at American kids and adults. I'm tired of the cheap shots being lobbed at America..enough is enough.

Heather said...

that is the cutest story!