This is my boo boo. She is turning 15 months soon. Still barely any hair as you can see, and only 3 teeth. I keep thinking she is going to start preschool with mashed potatoes and apple sauce in her lunch box while everyone else has peanut butter sandwiches and carrot sticks. She’s also going to be wearing hats while all the other girls have braided pigtails.
Ok, so not really. Most people keep telling me their kids were bald until age 3. I’m sure LB will follow in their footsteps and she’s got tons of redeeming qualities to make up for her hair and tooth lackage.
I recently netflixed an HBO documentary called “Thin” about 4 females who commit themselves to a treatment center for Eating Disorders. Really disturbing stuff, but familiar, as I haven’t met a female YET who is at peace with her own body image (myself included). After watching it, my mother (who got her degree in psychology) turned to me and said “So how do you raise a girl in America WITHOUT an eating disorder?”
My philosophy on this issue (and believe me, its a terrifying thing to think about, now that I have a daughter of my own) is that there is no way to protect your child from everything bad in the world. Exposure to television, movies, music, and the general media has proved to be a major influence on the selves of America’s population.
My mother’s solution to this evil was to hide my sister and I away from all the media she could find. We moved from urban Los Angeles to extremely rural Vermont when I was seven years old, and promptly lost all contact with the outside world. Ok, by outside world I mean, she refused to connect any form of television to our home, only letting us watch highly monitored films, enrolled us in an “alternative” school with a very progressive, creative, hippie-based curriculum, did not buy us a computer till high school (and then only hooked up the Internet when I was a senior).
When I asked to subscribe to “Seventeen” magazine when I was in middle school (like all my friends did) she immediately did research on which magazine was the least offensive to her, and readily decided that they ALL were not appropriate.
Now my mother is not one of those crazy, super-religious, wait-until-marriage types of women, who was trying to protect the sanctity of her daughter’s soul. She was (and still is) a die-hard feminist who simply did NOT acknowledge the need for socially acceptable femininity. When I told her I wanted to be a flight attendant, she quickly rebutted my dreams with a scoffish “Be the pilot instead.” When I wanted to be a ballerina, or the Ariel the Little Mermaid, I could see her cringing deep down, hoping this was just a phase that would develop into a more realized career as an accomplished, politically-driven Artist or Actor.
Now all parents want the best for their children, and my mother was just doing what she thought was best. She has given me some incredible tools to live my life with, but I am still dealing with a lot of resentment from how she brought me up.
I believe many ideas of the feminist theory, but definitely not all of them. I believe in equal wages, and Title IX, Roe v Wade and non-gender-based parenting. But I will not rule out a whole world of femininity the way my mother did.
I love my mother. I respected and loved her so much that I was afraid to defy her. She has an uncanny psychic ability too, which has always thrown me off gaurd, She knew I was pregnant before I called her weeping from Louisiana. She knew I would get accepted to college on a scholarship, which I did. She always seems to be one step ahead of me, and I have hated her for that.
As a child, I knew my mother was always right, and if she didn’t agree with my decision-making, I was crushed. My opinion was never the right opinion unless she agreed with it. You could say I was spineless, a wimp, a push-over, or just showing many qualities of a Pisces child, but either way, I found it very hard to make decisions on my own, without her consent.
Once I moved away from home, I started making my own choices and living my own life, but I also started resenting her TREMENDOUSLY. How come I could never stand up for myself? How come decision-making was a PAINFUL process. How come I felt so guilty every time I wanted to buy Cosmo or thong underwear? I wanted to be a feminist, and be strong, but I was weak and shamed instead.
I think my mother instilled amazing and thoughtful values in me, but I don’t think she gave me the weapons to carry those values out in a world that has not completely come to terms with feminism. She sheltered me from ideas she thought would ruin my self-esteem, but instead I wanted to be involved with those ideas and didn’t know how to integrate them into my life.
She took away all the media she could find, but didn’t realize that perhaps I might grow up to want to be apart of it (I went to film school). The important things in life: politics, science, math, revolution, idealism, history and social change were the things I decided NOT to pursue.
I wanted to LIVE in the world she thought was so evil, work for a corporation that she claimed was taking advantage of its employees, and create media that she thought exploited women and demoralized peoples’ souls.
I guess this is the underlying gap in our mother-daughter relationship, and has molded what I want (or don’t want) for my own child.
I think the world is an exciting and staggering place. It has bad and good elements, things that will make you laugh and cry. It has people that will hurt and take advantage of you, but ones that will be your life-long friends as well.
I want my daughter to be able to navigate this crazy life with skill and confidence. I don’t want her to hide from confrontation like I did, or become bitter with the way her idealism has failed (the way my mother views life now). I want her to take life in-stride, ride the tsunamis with courage, knowing that she can weather the storm. I want to give her all the tools and objects she can use in the battles she is going to face.
My sister thinks I want to throw my daughter to the wolves and see if she can get out of it alive. I don’t think I should expose LB to EVERY evil to make her skin tough as nails, but I do think that she should know that evils to exist and there is a way to defeat them like everything else. My sister lives in Alaska, where she is getting her masters in geology. She is a full supporter of my mother’s manifesto, and has succeeded very well with it as her guide.
As far as eating disorders go- I think its something that every girl struggles with, but when your coping mechanisms become so extreme that you start to literally kill yourself, that is when a problem becomes out of hand. I think all I can do is to try to prepare LB for life by dealing with it in a less destructive way.
This is hard. Because women are set up to always think they are fat, even if they are skinny. How do you reject this, or at least cope with it in a healthy way? You can’t rewire someones brain to turn off the voice that says you are fat. You can’t stop advertising companies from carrying out their businesses.
My hope is that in the next decades our society will become more multicultural and will have many different ideas of what is considered beautiful, or sexy. I believe that the classic “thin, white female” is still considered the major icon in our ideas of beautiful and sexy. However, with the minority population growing, and the numbers of interracial families growing, I think this idea will fade. I think that in 50 years those morons who got their entire bodies recreated on “Dr. 90210” will look like complete freaks and someone else will be considered the new beauty.
Someone who looks the exact opposite of their pasty, stretched, bony bodies.
In the mean time, I will let my daughter play with trucks and shovels, dolls and make-up. Let her watch television (when I can afford it HA!) under supervision, and perhaps flip through a magazine or two, cause honestly, If we can’t have the freedom to gossip over what a bad mother Britney Spears it, I don’t think we could live with the guilt of all the mistakes we’ve made in our own parenting lives. Ok, in my case at least (sorry mom).