I remember when my oldest child first started climbing trees. He seemed far too small and fragile to be towering above my head, bravely traversing the branches to find the perfect nook where he would sit and daydream for what seemed like hours. Every time he ran out to find a tree to climb, my heart would simultaneously leap with pride that he was being so brave and clinch with fear that he might fall and break something. I know as parents we all oscillate between those feelings of incredible joy and pride in our child overcoming a new challenge and the gut-wrenching fear that they may be irreparably hurt.
Now that I have three children, the fear of them falling and hurting themselves has lessened. Experience has shown me that they will get scrapes and bruises when they run too fast down the asphalt driveway. I have learned the hard way, and more than once, that they are definitely going to fall off the bike, crash heads with a friend on the trampoline, and scrape or cut themselves while playing wildly in the backyard. I will admit I still get queasy at the sight of blood dripping down their knees and that my Mama Bear heart still wants to jump to their rescue when I see them dangling from the monkey bars. But for the most part, I have developed a certain amount of trust that they will be okay in the end.
Do you want to know what I fear more these days than one of them breaking an arm?
As a 10-year recovered anorexic and bulimic, I fear my children might face the same challenges of self-doubt and perfectionism that plagued my adolescence. I fear that my children’s love for food as fuel for their growing bodies will morph into an untamed hatred for calories that add pounds to their precious bodies. I fear that their need for control will make them miss out on the joy of youthful spontaneity and wonder.
How about you, Mama? Does your history of eating disorders make you worry about your child’s relationship with food? Do you have a daughter, like me? Do you pray and hope she will never know the pain of looking in the mirror and hating her own reflection like we once did?
Well, Mama, I’ll Stand by You.
When you refuse to jump on the latest fad diet with all the other moms or join the super-intense workout class because you know both of these things can be major triggers for you.
When you don’t force your kids to eat everything on their plates because you don’t ever want to make food a control issue for your children.
When you struggle to find the right clothes to wear but show up in front of your child with a big smile (even if it’s a fake smile that day).
And when you have a hard day or week or month, where the old habits of restriction or purging want to pull you back in, I’ll Stand by You.
This is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and I am sure you know that because we are recovered anorexics or bulimics, or both, our children, and especially our daughters, are at a higher risk for developing an eating disorder in their lifetime. Oh, how I hate that the struggles of my past have already set up my precious little three-year-olds and eight-year-old for a struggle they don’t even know exists.
But you know what, I think the fact that we fought through our battles with food and body image and show up every day with love and grace for ourselves and others also means that they have a greater chance of being beautiful, authentic adults one day. And that’s a gift I am proud to pass on.