Monday, February 15, 2010

On Being An Embarrassment

This morning, I realized that my youngest child will be starting kindergarten in just six months. Wow, where did the time go? How did my baby get so big? I know I will cry my eyes out after I drop her off the first day. My babies, all turning into big kids and then adults. So bittersweet. Anyway, I was thinking about my weight in regards to her schooling. Specifically, how hard it can be on a child to have an obese parent. Now, I know this is going to piss some people off, but hear me out. Yes, kids love their parents regardless of how they look. But it is hard to have a parent who varies significantly from "the norm." Kids can, and do, feel embarrassed by their parents and get taunted by their cruel peers about them.

When I was a little girl, I, of course, loved my parents. I was proud of them. I was so excited when they'd come to school. Everything was fine until some kid in about second grade saw my father coming in to drop me off. My Dad was 41 years old when I was born, and he was completely bald quite early in life. This kid, he asked me if my Dad was my Grandpa. I said "No, that was my father" and the kids busted out laughing. And then a couple of kids made it a point to make fun of my "old, bald" father at every opportunity. It sucked. I even stopped wanting my Dad to go do things with me for a while. Of course, now I look back and feel bad about that, but I was a kid. And I just didn't want to be teased.

And then my mother came to school and I got teased about my "big fat" mother. And then I felt bad about that, too. Boys would say "You're gonna grow up to be fat like your mother!" and laugh. Kids are cruel, for sure. And I was suddenly feeling pretty embarrassed about my parents, even though I loved them deeply. I just wished they looked like the other parents so I wouldn't be singled out.

I seem to have recreated a similar dilemma for my daughter. When my boys were smaller, I was smaller, too. I gained weight as they went through school, and if anyone ever teased them about their "fat mother," they never told me about it. I'm sure they wouldn't. But my preschool daughter not only has an older father who may be mistaken for a grandpa, but also a fat mother. I don't think my daughter has noticed that her father is older and her mother is fat yet. Kids don't care about that kind of thing, really. They just love and accept. But I do not want to be the cause of my child being taunted. I want her to be proud of me. I want to be a normal-sized Mom, who, although being 40 years old (which is about 15 years older than most of her friends' mothers), can look pretty young at a reasonable weight. I do not want to walk into Kindergarten wearing frumpy clothes with holes in the thighs, with my face breaking out from grease and sugar and my undyed greying hair topping a head slung with extra chins. I don't want to be the "fat mom." I want to look good for my kids. Heck, I want to be ALIVE for my kids. I want to be healthy and active and I want them to be proud of me.

So part of my motivation right now is to drop some significant weight by the fall when she starts school. I ate pretty well today but I can't express how tired I am of the whole calorie counting (or carb counting or meal prepping or the whole FOOD THINKING) thing. I have been doing this for two and a half years now and yeah, it gets tedious some days. But I am just plugging along, doing what I gotta do.

Today I drank too much coffee and had heart palpitations. It sucks, truly. It's scary and exhausting. I *have* seen a cardiologist and they are "benign," but still scary when they come on suddenly like that. I know caffeine is a trigger. My fault. I will back off the caffeine.

Still posting my food on Twitter. Thank you all for the support and kindness :)

31 comments:

midlife_swimmer said...

I can SO RELATE ... when my girls were young I used to identify with a children's book called "monster momma" that had a main character named Patrick Edward was a little boy with a "monster" for a mother who hid herself.

I was thinking about that book the other day and how I no longer hid myself from my daughters social lives.

Marlene said...

When my two kiddies were in grade school. I did ebverything. from PTA President to cleaning the kitchen in the cafeteria. Ran all the fundraisers, cooked, helped in classrooms etc. etc. I thought that the school could not get by without me. It wasn't until she was in High school that she told me that the kids daily teased her about her overweight mother. She said they called me names and pretty much masde life miserable. She is 40 years old, and now I know why she never bothers with anyone from grade school. If I had known, I would hqave stayed home.

Enz said...

2 1/2 years and you are still at it! That is awesome. I get the same thoughts sometimes- I sick of thinking about it all the time, I want it just be normal!

Seren_Sighs said...

I get tired of counting calories too. I did for a while and then stopped for several months. I'm doing it again and I have to tell you that it's actually sort of a relief. I didn't for a while because I have a tendency to get obsessive. But now that I'm counting again it's good to go to bed without worrying about gaining weight, or feeling like I shouldn't eat when I'm really hungry at night because I don't know if I've eaten too many calories or not.

I don't really have any suggestions for you. Perhaps you could try to have a fuit and veggie with every meal? I'm pretty much stopped counting veggies and I found that helped a lot. And I started writing them down in a notebook because I found spark people became too tedious.

Fallon said...

Loved what you had to say here. So much of my motivation behind continuously working towards the best fitness possible is for my future children. At this point I am on my way to being an "older" mom, but at least I can be a healthy, young looking older mom. Thanks for getting me thinking again about my reasons to stay healthy!

mary @ designer of me said...

Keep up the great work!! <3 You are making so much progress!
Besides that I think a part of how your children see you (and hence their own bodies) is also affected by how you carry yourself, how you treat yourself.
If you show them that you love yourself regardless, I think they will input that as well.

ClistyB said...

You are right on the money with this one. Fact of the matter is, kids will point out the people who are lots different than the others, regardless of what the difference is. So why the heck would it be so wrong to make a healthy change and spare a kid some flack?

Genie @ Diet of 51 said...

I understand your anxiety over this; I felt similarly being one of the older moms in my son's class. My heart goes out to you.

Don't give up! You are part of the way there, just by being aware of the issue. Put all of the pieces together and walk, plod, crawl to your goals.

jennifer said...

This post hits me right between the eyes. OUCH!

My mother was morbidly obese when I started school. I HAD NO IDEA! It hurt when kids teased and called her fat.

I am terribly conscious of being the "biggest mom" when we go on field trips or when I am at school. But I am usually the most loving mother there - I truly care and I'm interested in all of the kids that I meet! I am more than my weight!! You are too!

Still, I am at my all time highest weight and I'm miserable physically. It's time to get healthier and I am STRUGGLING to get started. It sucks.

MargieAnne said...

Understand the not wanting to embarrass family bit.

About counting .... Could you safely take a break by concentrating on portion size and eating fresh? You probably do these things now but maybe a month of menu planning, just 4 weeks, 28 days, would give some kind of refreshed effort. just a thought.

Zoe Dunn said...

I can't believe that your age would be a big deal, and given that you've got such big boys, you're not really an "older mom" anyway!

Good luck with it all, I love your blog.

Hanlie said...

I am truly baffled by this. Over here people are so much more tolerant - I think it's because we are so diverse. A kid would never be teased about wearing glasses, being different, having a fat or an old parent or a handicapped sibling. It just doesn't happen. So I find it very hard to relate.

I do suppose that these days there are a lot more older parents and if you look at the obesity statistics, surely it's more commonplace and shouldn't merit teasing anymore?

screwdestiny said...

That was kind of a hard post for me to read because it was so sad, and it hit close to home for me, but not necessarily in the way you would expect. My mom has always been very different than other moms, and I remember *her* being worried that I was going to be embarrassed by her when I was a child. I always explained to her that she could never embarrass me. Of course, she couldn't change what made her different, so yeah. And I knew a guy who told me once about how it was growing up with his very obese mother. He was always teased about it, but he always defended her because he loved her as she was. I guess I'm telling you this because, like you said, kids love and accept. And I think that a lot of them will not be embarrassed by their parents, but rather realize that the kids are being stupid for teasing for such a ridiculous thing. *shrugs* But I think it's great that you want to be the best you can be for your daughter regardless. You're a great mother. :)

Sabine said...

I've been reading your excellent blog for months now but I don't think I've commented yet.

I was so hard on my mother. She was obese in the 60s, when obesity was rare, so she stood out. I wanted her to look "normal". She always dressed nicely with uncomfortable foundation garments and heels. She kept her hair styled and wore a bit of makeup. She smiled, too. People liked her and were drawn to her confidence, I think.

I know now that she suffered, especially at the hands of doctors. I have apologized for the cruel things I said to her in my childish attempts to be helpful.

You are doing so well! I'm only a little overweight but I get such inspiration from your site. You write a clear and interesting blog and you make me think.

Patsy said...

Twitchit is only 11 months old (nearly) but she is the absolute motivation behind my weight loss journey. Apart from a few years where I was in the 'normal' weight range for my height, the rest of my life has been spent in the obese/very obese range and I don't want that to happen to her. Neither do I want her to be embarrassed by me - I want her to be proud of her healthy, active mummy!

Anonymous said...

Can't give advise as I am in the same boat. You now have the REAL motivation. I find the more I count cals, points or whatever the more I am obsessed with food/ and my weight increases. I agree with the comment above that looking at portion sizes and eating plenty of fruit, vegs and lean protein is the way to go. It is working for me now that I don't obsesse with weights, recording etc I am now just focusing more on life and living and having fun and less on what I am eating. Good luck. Carol

Bought For A Price said...

I love that your daughter starting to school gives you a "longer term goal" but not a "too long goal". Six months sounds like a great amount of time to really see GREAT results.

Maureen said...

You sound down today. :-( Just be assured that you are a wonderful person and a great mother. You're changing your lifestyle to ensure that you are around with them for a very long, long time! Keep going, you're doing great!

Jenn said...

Unfortunately, I think kids will always find something to tease each other about, so even if you were a skinny mom, if there's a kid looking to tease your daughter, they'll find something else to call out!
Instead, why not use these years to teach your daughter about diversity? Explain to her that even though someone is different, it doesn't make them bad, or wrong, or the butt of a joke.
I agree your kids should be part of your motivation, but because you want to teach them good eating habits, and because you want to be there for them and THEIR kids.

Lyn said...

Jenn~

I wrote about this in my post, "Why Is Max So Fat?" here:

http://escapefromobesity.blogspot.com/2009/10/why-is-max-so-fat.html

I definitely do focus on teaching my kids diversity!

Zoe Dunn~

True, I am not an 'older mom' to my nearly grownup boys, but when I walk into a preschool I am the oldest one there. That doesn't bother me so much as the weight does, nor do I think it will be a big issue for my daughter. But her father is older than I am and definitely looks the "grandpa." She already gets comments from strangers about her "grandpa" when she is out with him. I am hoping to ease things a bit by not being, myself, a target for kids to ridicule.

I know kids will find something to tease about but this is one thing I can, at least party, prevent.

Duddes02 said...

My mom was overweight my whole life. I actually don't remember a single person at school ever making fun of her.

However, I do recall that as kids..all of us made fun of her. A few times we made her cry..which is pretty awful. My mom was thin her whole life (due to extreme dieting) but gained alot after 4 kids. She always attempted to lose weight but she had a very unhealthy attitude (we literally never saaw her sit down and eat a plate of food..she would always hide)

Diana A. said...

hi lyn..
didn't write to you for some time now... maybe im hiding because i know im not doing anything about my weight..
i have a boy who is almost 3, and DOES go to a pre-school center.. it never occurred to me that he or his friends maybe notice me as an obese person.. do u think he does? how old is your daughter?

Lyn said...

Diana~

No, I don't think he notices at 3 years old. My daughter is 4 and I don't think she knows I am fat yet. I didn't know my mom was fat until some rude kid pointed it out to me!

The Chubby Girl Diaries said...

I can definitely relate! I was actually thinking about that the other day.

My parents were never an embarrassment to me (i'm actually bigger than my mom ever was). But I do worry about being an embarrassment to my own children.

~Kellie

Marcia said...

I don't really know what to tell you. I don't know where kids learn a lot of this stuff. I was walking out of preschool with my son 2 weeks ago, and he started to point out another little boy and his mommy, and started to say "Look how fat she is!" I started to interrupt him and when she passed I got down and told him that it wasn't nice to say that.

I don't think he meant it badly (though certainly older kids will taunt others, I was on the receiving end of that forever). I think he was making an observation. But wow.

Seth said...

I think that you can do it! You've got a lot of time to take some off. It's terrible that kids act that way. I'm a teacher and it sucks to hear some of that and I even teach at a small private christian school. A lot of it comes from home. Anyhow, I hope that you continue to stay motivated!

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Texasmom1974 said...

I have been the fat mom my son's entire life. (He's 16.) I've seen and heard what kids have told him about me and I can totally relate. It's sooooo sad, and I feel for my daughter who is 7 and hasn't heard much yet, thank God. But, I've deliberately stayed away from most school things because of it. :(

Laura said...

I can't really relate to this but I understand what your saying.

Autumnforest said...

My parents were old when they had me, they looked ancient. People constantly called them my grandparents and I envied my friends with parents who were half their age. I cringed on parents night. My best friend had a young mom--her mom wore hippie miniskirts and acted like a teen. My friend wanted to crawl under a rock as her mom competed with her. She dread parents night. I had a friend whose dad like to tell embarrassing jokes. He cringed. He didn't want him coming to parents night. Now, considering 1/3 of all Americans are obese, weight makes you pretty common. It's really nothing to be worried about. So long as you don't have a nasty personality, obnoxious habits, or are an irritable prickly person and you're a friendly, loving, and helpful person, your child will be relieved to have you for a mommy on parents night.

Lee said...

I'm over 300 pounds right now. I have 6 children, all of whom have a "fat mother".

I'm going to be enrolling my daughter in ballet soon. And I'm seriously considering enrolling myself in ballet too. I've always wanted to learn ballet.

I've learned I can't buy clothes that will fit someday. And I'm trying to learn right now that I can't "PAUSE" life just because I'm fat.

In short, if you make your daughter's kindergarten debut a reason to lose weight, your efforts will be in vain (unless they somehow kickstart some real emotional reasons for weight loss).

100togo said...

Well, first of all, being overweight in no way has to be equated with jeans with a hole in them, greasy skin and hair parted once over. Heaven forbid! You can still be good-looking and well-dressed even when heavy! I try to be! I hate that that's the stereotype for overweight women ... heavier women can still look pretty dang good!

But I do understand about the feeling of shame that can come when you are heavier, like you might embarress someone you are with. Wow ... that's a hard one. Kids are so mean, and so observant. I remember that my nieces used to be told by my sister, their Mom, to never mention my weight. Well, being small and honest, they noticed. And wanted to talk about it. So I gave them the freedom to talk about it ... yes, Auntie's fat. All people are different. That's okay. I think they accept me more now that I have just learned to be honest with them. But sometimes I am afraid that they will succumb to a peer pressure to look down on me for my weight. I hope not.

I want to lose ... but not for the reasons of society pressures ... but because it will make me feel better. I just know that putting the shame on myself does not work!

Those are my thoughts stemming from your post. Take care!