Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Parents just don't understand.

I recently came across another article in that favorite tabloid of mine, The Daily Mail.  This one was written by a mother who was a former bulimic and how she approaches weight issues with her children. You can read it here.  Basically, the woman's 10 year old son complained that he had a belly and mom agreed with him.  While I think it is important for parents to be realistic with their children, I also think that there are ways to talk to kids that emphasize health and not weight.  This is not one of those ways.

Will Smith, circa 1988, made a good point.
My own parents were great examples for me to grow up with; I cannot recall one time during my childhood that I ever heard my mom express any dissatisfaction with her body, and my dad was a super athlete who worked out every day.  However when I "came out" about my eating disorder they made some of their own cringe-worthy comments that sometimes surprised me. Fortunately I was at a point in my recovery that I was able to see the comments for what they were: confusion about how to deal with this a situation they were unprepared for.

But the aforementioned article & my own parents reminded me of an important lesson that we often forget:  parents are not perfect.

Yes, I can judge this woman for what she says to her son, but I also understand that she is coming from a place of love, even if I feel that the execution is wrong.  As much as therapists want us to blame our parents, I think that if you can remove yourself from a conversation in which your parents made a misstep, you can (usually) find that the comment is coming from a good place.

BUT, just because it's coming from a place of love doesn't make it ok.  If your mom or dad is consistently making comments that bother you, don't just assume that if you roll your eyes or indulge them with a "ha ha" that they'll understand the effect their words are having on you.  Sometimes you have to take the bull by the horns and say "Hey, that really hurts my feelings."  9 times out of 10 your next of kin will probably be shocked to hear this and will instantly knock it off.  But you must remember that family (and friends) are not mind readers.  From time to time you will have to help them help you feel good about yourself.

I think it's important for us as adults to make this distinction and stand up for ourselves.  We are no longer the defenseless kids who would be grounded for talking back to our parents.  If someone makes a joke about you going back for a second slice of cake/being single/laying around in your PJ's watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade instead of going for run, it's important for your own self awareness and acceptance to let them know if it makes you feel bad.

In the words of Jerry Maguire, help them help you.

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