I have a confession and this is probably the hardest, most exposing one that I’ve written so far. I’m so nervous to be putting this out there. Not because it demonstrates my most awful parenting but because I’m about to talk about an issue that is SO hard for me to talk about.
This ‘issue’ brings up such strong feelings of shame that when it happens, I can’t breathe. It will be familiar to most of you. In fact, most women have this ‘issue’ and it makes us feel unworthy.
But I’ve chosen to share this with you for so many reasons beyond the fact that I know many of you will relate to the ‘issue’ itself. The main reason is that I want to show where this issue ‘took’ me. How history gets triggered and where that can leave us when we’re trying to parent. And I want to show you how I dealt with it and at the same time didn’t deal with it.
Plus, the bottom line is that it happened and I want to be real with you. I have been so far and I don’t plan to change that.
What is this issue? It’s my body. Well to be truthful, it’s my booty.
It all began with sand-boarding in the gorgeous Kalbarri (WA) over the school holidays with my fella and kids. Now I was already a little out of my comfort zone because some of those dunes were really high and steep! But I was determined to give it a go and have fun … which I truly did. Until my daughter made a comment about my ‘huge bum’.
Now I want to point out 2 things here.
1.She wasn’t trying to be mean.
2.I don’t talk negatively about my body in front of my kids at all.
So really, her comment could be best described as an unemotional observation.
That made it worse. It stung! And here is what happened.
I felt small. I emotionally and physically distanced myself from her, my other kids and at the time, my husband. I was choked up on and off. I laid low through the drive back to our accommodation and for the rest of the afternoon.
Now my point in writing this is to confess that in the moments (hours, if I’m honest) after she said that, I felt profound shame … which is something I felt almost every day during Year 10. Yep. From the age of 14-15 years one of the popular boys at my school tormented me most days about my weight. More specifically my arse.
Now to give you some perspective which I too gained somewhere in my 20’s, at that time in my life I swam 5 mornings a week in a squad. I was about 45kg. So realistically, I had NOTHING to worry about. I know. I hear you. SOOOO many women relate to this story, shaking their heads at their younger selves that believed they were ‘fat’ when they definitely were not.
In hindsight, my arse was pretty good back then! But it didn’t matter. That boy and his posse convinced me otherwise. This was on the back of a mother who I adore, but who passed on her body image issues to myself and my sister. I.e. Don’t eat that or you’ll end up fat like me. Of course she wasn’t fat and of course, I grew up to have exactly the same body shape as she does.
So needless to say, that one comment from my daughter had me drowning in shame and feeling 14 years old. And the point of me telling you this? Well what resources does a mother, who feels like she’s 14 years old because her high school baggage has been triggered, when dealing with her 12-year-old daughter? Very very few. I was completely ill-equipped to deal with the situation in an adult way. I couldn’t laugh it off. I couldn’t talk to her about how much that hurt my feelings. I had nothing. That wound runs so deep that sometimes when I least expect it, it brings me to my knees and that day was one of those days. Trying to parent in moments like that. Well that’s really really hard to do!
A day later I was still a little teary. But I clawed my way out of the pit of shame. I did this by acknowledging my reaction, knowing where it came from, telling my husband what was going on for me, asking for some reassurance and then asking for some space (he gave both willingly), crying about it and then journalling the shit out of it.
As Brene Brown says, the antidote of shame is empathy and my husband gave me doses of that. He knew something was up but I CHOSE to reach out to him, I CHOSE to talk about my shame and I CHOSE to ask for what I needed.
Now he doesn’t know my issue. He’s carrying a few extra kilos himself but like most men, still struts around the bedroom and bathroom like he’s the king! But he knows shame from his own life experience. He’s human. And so I connected with him ‘one human to another human’ and he helped me begin to climb out of the pit.
Having said that, I’m still not sure I’ll talk about it with my daughter. I wish I could but I’ll have to see how I go.
So my confession is this, I didn’t parent well that day. In fact, I checked out for the afternoon. But like everything, today is a new day.