It's tough to parent a teen. Add in any set of of teenage drama and there you have it. We were doing a virtual doctor's appointment last week and the pre-appointment request for info for height/weight/meds/etc came through. I did what any mom would do… text my daughter who was schooling virtually to go weigh herself. The response was "Fine."
I knew she wasn't happy about it. It was never something I liked myself. I had huge phobias at doctors for a long time because of the number on that darn scale. I think that's actually why I prefer to NOT actually go to the doctor. I have gotten over it… in some cases I had no other choice!
Finally, the chore is done and she texts me the number. To my surprise, she LOST weight. My daughter was the same weight I was during my freshman year of high school. I remember cringing at the number and silently hiding my personal remorse for my own issues and regrets. So to see the weight loss, I was surprised. Gleeful almost.
Ok, where am I going with this right?
Well, when we sat down for the virtual visit, my daughter turned and said "the only time I have body image issues is when I stand on the scale."
We have never focused on body size or weight with our daughter. We had this issue some time ago. She compared herself to her friends who were smaller. Not only was she "bigger", but taller by several inches. We had to remind her that she has genetics that makes her bigger. Neither of her parents are short or "small". She took that well and it never came up again. So I was clearly stunned by her image comment.
It's really hard to see how we've been very careful about the words diet, weight and any other types of negative words, we've always focused on "healthy". My daughter is so good at choosing well. Heck, we'd go out to eat and she'd order water to drink. Waiters would comment "Wow, a kid that asks for water?". She orders fruit instead of fries, cut out her own extra snacks. Weight loss, while I did greet it enthusiastically, was not the goal here!
As an adult, I distinctly remember my self esteem issues starting in 4th grade. I remember those scoliosis exams in the nurses office and I just remember being embarrassed. Maybe it was budding breasts and the one day I forgot to wear my training bra… as if that could ever happen now!
My daughter loved swimming on our local swim team, until the year prior to the pandemic. Apparently a social media post commenting my daughter's thighs were too big came to her attention. She fought every practice and swim meet that season. She only revealed it to me after she was bullied in school and it was ultimately unrelated to the larger issue. So it's amazing to see how those words held so much power. For the record, when I found out about this issue, I reminder my daughter that her legs were the reason she swam fast. It didn't help her self image, but she acknowledged the power of her body. She still doesn't want to swim.
I know I don't have the answers. I'm trying to navigate all of this too. Some days, I want to put my kids in a bubble and keep them protected from the outside world. But then they drive me crazy and I know that's not a feasible reality! But I'm glad that the experiences I have are still front and center. I love being able to relate to kids and let them know they aren't alone in all this.