My mom says I have a habit of reminding her of her parenting failures. The conversation often starts with a “Mom, remember when…” and ends with something she did that in hindsight she perceives as not good parenting. Like, remember when I was six and I asked you if Santa was real and you said no? Or, remember when you used to wake us up to the song Rise and Shine, but instead of ending it with “Children of the Lord” you ended it with “Children of the Corn”? Remember when I was eight and you read us The Giver and the father killed that baby in it and said “Bye bye little guy!” as he put him in the garbage chute? My mom hears these stories and thinks of her failures, but I don’t see them that way at all. I keep telling the stories because I think they’re funny, they make my childhood colorful, and they’re part of what makes me who I am today. The Santa story taught me that I don’t need a fantastical, magical figure to enjoy Christmas and it made me appreciate what my parents went through to get gifts for me. I still sing the “Children of the Corn” song and chuckle, but when I was little I didn’t get the reference, I just thought that was how the song ended. It’s one of those quirky family traditions. And although The Giver was a little intense, having my mom read to me and my brother as children fostered my love of reading both fiction and nonfiction.
None of these stories hurt me, none of them haunt me or make me feel like I had a bad childhood. All things considered, I had a pretty great childhood. I was fed, I was clothed, I was loved and I was happy. But every parent knows (even the really good ones) that they fuck their kids up in some way, despite the best of intentions. And I remember those moments too, those moments when the adults around me inadvertently cemented in me this idea that my worth is connected to my body. Since I’ve been fat since I was child, I have had plenty of adults in my life tell me in different ways that my body is too much. I was not often offered any fixes– I’ve heard lots of stories of women who were put on diets when they were children, and my parents never did that to me. I don’t really remember them helping me with my weight at all. It was made pretty clear to me that it was my problem. Continue reading