This mom wants her kids to keep fighting

balletLike most 5-year-old girls, I wanted to be a ballerina. I was in love with the idea of twirling in a beautiful costume and I wanted those silky ballet shoes that lace up your legs.

My mom signed me up for lessons and I was overjoyed.

It only took a few classes for me to be totally hooked. I would stand in my bedroom and practice my feet positions. I would try to get up on my tippy-tippy toes and pirouette. In my mind, I was as graceful and beautiful as anyone in my class.

Maybe even more so.

I have no idea how long I took classes. Days? Weeks? Months?

The reason I stopped, however, is engraved in my memory.

One day after class, the ballet teacher took my mother aside and told her:

“Ballet really isn’t her thing. She is clumsy, uncoordinated and ungraceful.”

Just like that, the lessons stopped and my dream was gone.

There is nothing wrong with finding out you aren’t good at something. That is part of life and I accept that.

But for some reason, the labels “clumsy,” “uncoordinated” and “ungraceful” became as much a part of me as my brown hair and hazel eyes.

I WAS those labels.

I became convinced that I could not do anything requiring physical coordination.

Not even the monkey bars.

I didn’t even try.

I can remember P.E. being absolutely torturous for me. I would dread the team selections and always try to find someway to get out of playing volleyball or softball. I was terrified of looking like an idiot and I was convinced that it couldn’t go any other way.

I let those stupid labels rob me of more than just playing sports. I let them dictate the kind of person I would be and the type of risks I would be willing to take.

Fear of failing kept me from so many things.

It’s really rather stupid.

Now that I’m a mother, I’m super conscious of labels. I do not want my children limiting themselves.

I want them to fight.

The phrase “I’m not good at that” or “I can’t do that” is banned from our home.

You can learn to be good at anything. All you need is the desire and practice. That’s what I tell them.

I want them to fight.

I encourage my kids to try new things and to never back out of a challenge. Facing your fear is the only road forward.

I want them to fight.

Yet, here I am still frightened of doing things that require coordination.

I have very little fight.

Yesterday we met some friends for ice-skating. My kids have never been and they were excited to try something new.

“Are you sure?” I said on the drive. “We only have one hour. We could go get ice cream instead?”

“No!!!” they both cried.

All week, I had been telling myself that I was going to ice-skate with my kids. That I was going to allow myself to look stupid and fall. It is OK to fail. I can do this.

Yet, the fight left me the second I walked in the door.

“I’m not going to skate after all,” I told them. “We can’t afford for all of us to do it.”

“Awww,” my daughter said. “Sorry mom. That’s not fair to you.”

No it’s not and it has nothing to do with money. That was the logical argument I made with myself to get out of trying.

It’s not fair that I won’t fight.

Clumsy. Uncoordinated. Ungraceful. For. The. Win.

How I wish I could just play catch, volleyball, jump on a trampoline or kick a soccer ball around without it filling me with a sense of dread and anxiety.

As I sat on the cold bench at the skate rink and watched my children my heart was bursting with joy. There they were. All by themselves trying to figure it out. Pushing buckets around the ice with big helmets on their heads. They would fall, get back up and try again. No tears. No frustration.

Determination.

Belief.

Fight.

Maybe I will never have enough fight for myself, but seeing my kids fight for a life without fear is more than enough.

ice

Exposed by my children for what I really look like

Flipping through the pictures on my phone, I see it.

blogpic

My first reaction is shock. Who took this hideous picture of me?

Self-loathing and disgust swell up and threaten to bring me to tears.

Just as I am about to hit delete, my boy walks in the room.

“Do you know anything about this picture?” I ask him.

I turn the screen so he can see it. He smiles huge.

“I took that of you in Tahoe,” he says. “You looked so beautiful laying there. I couldn’t help it mom.”

“You need to ask me before using my phone to take pictures,” I say.

“I know,” he says. “But mom, seriously, look how pretty you look?”

I look at the picture again and try to see what he sees.

My daughter walks over and takes a look.

“That could be a postcard mom,” she says smiling. “You’re so beautiful. I love it.”

I take a deep breath.

This is exactly what I needed.

My default mode is to see and focus on the flaws and imperfections. I’m starting to see a bit more.

I still see my dimply, fat thighs.

I also see a mom collapsed on the shore that just explored the lake for hours with her children.

I still see chubby arms.

I also see the arms of a mom that just helped her kids across the rocks and hot sand so their feet wouldn’t hurt.

I still see a fat woman wearing a black dress bathing suit to try to hide her weight issue.

I also see an adventurous mom that loves her children something fierce.

Like many women, I have struggled with my weight most of my life. It’s not something that will ever go away for me. I don’t have a naturally slim body. Never have.

Right now I’m the heaviest I’ve been in 10 years. Yet…

I have not let my weight stop me this time. I am wearing tank tops, sundresses and bathing suits in public. I’m running around playing with my kids this summer and I sometimes even feel attractive.

Yes. You heard me.

“I feel pretty. Oh so pretty. I feel pretty, and witty and bright.”

Well…not exactly. But something like that.

Is it because I’m getting older? Is it that I have more to worry about than just how I look? Or maybe it’s because my kids look at me with such adoring eyes.

Really, it doesn’t matter.

I don’t hate my body anymore.

That’s huge for me to admit and hard to even wrap my mind around.

I’m not giving up on exercising and getting healthy. Those are things I will continue to strive for because I want to be around awhile.

Right now though, I just want to love my body where it is. I want it to be OK to see myself the way my kids do.

Thank you kids.

blog2

* Here is another “secret” picture the kids took of me on our day trip to the beach.

Never gonna give up the fight

“Can you believe how ugly she is?”

“What is she thinking by wearing her hair like that? Gross.”

“I know. Did you see her shoes? Seriously. How horrible! With toes like that she should cover them up. Ugh.”

So it goes.

For over an hour.

I usually move when these two mothers sit next to me, but today the karate studio was full. I could have gone to my car, but my daughter likes to be able to see me.

I tried hard to read my book or focus on watching the class, but they are literally inches away from me and they are loud. They flip the pages of a fashion magazine and make fun of every person they see. They gossip and laugh it up.

I seriously forget sometimes that people are like this.

When our daughters come out of karate together the moms continue as my girl puts her shoes on. I try to talk over their voices so she won’t notice them, but it’s impossible.

“Can you believe the gall of that woman to wear eyeliner like that? Who does she think she is!” one wails so loudly my daughter can’t help but look at the picture. I look too.

For a second I think, “She’s right. That looks ridiculous.”

Then I snap back to reality and swoop my girl out of there.

At the car my daughter says, “Why were those moms saying that stuff?”

Using a Waldorf teaching method I say back, “I wonder about that too.”

She doesn’t say anything else.

When I get home it’s dinnertime, teeth-brushing, reading and cuddles. I lose myself in the routine, but in the back of my mind a question keeps repeating itself.

I was feeling anger and disgust at those mothers. My sitting there and judging in anger these women…is that equal to them sitting there judging the models and celebrities in the magazine?

Once the kids are asleep, I put that question to my husband.

He said these women are obviously jealous and that by breaking down and scrutinizing the tiny flaws they find, it makes them feel better about themselves.

“Maybe,” I say. “But I was getting angry at these women and making all kinds of internal judgments about how mean and catty they are. Aren’t I just as bad?”

He didn’t really answer that.

I don’t know either.

These women, like many, were making fun of celebrities. It seems to be a favorite pastime of them, and I am sure they are not alone.

I was very angry with them.

But maybe that is misplaced.

They are trying to find comfort in breaking down these images that society says are “perfect.” Maybe I should be angry with that.

I am.

There is a million ways in which women, and our girls, are targeted and told we are not good enough. Maybe these moms are using this as a way of coping. This is the way they fight back. They poke fun at the very things that they are supposed to covet.

Maybe…

But they are also teaching their daughters that a woman’s body is something to scrutinize and poke fun at. That clothes, shoes, makeup, jewelry…all of that has some connection to how a person should be judged.

Ugh. I hate all that.

I want my daughter to grow up feeling confident. She should not NEED to put others down to feel good about herself. Her worth should be so grounded that nothing can shake it.

I have no idea how to do that.

I try.

I purposely don’t put myself down in front of her. I commend her for actions and try not to say she is “so beautiful” all the time. I never call her princess and try to read her stories about strong women. We talk about virtues and what makes someone a good friend.

I don’t know if it’s enough.

As she gets older I know that it will be harder and harder. I cannot wrap her up and protect her. She will hate her body at some point and that makes me angry and sad.

But I will fight.

I will continue to talk to her and, even more importantly, listen. I will praise her strength and confidence and continue to teach her how to be kind to those around her.

I will fight this battle forever because she is worth it.

And if I’m ever stuck next to those moms in karate again, I’ll just go sit in my car.