I’ve never been a boy mom so I can’t speak on the subject but what I can tell you is being a mother, a woman, to two small girls, is quite a task. Being a woman who has been attending therapy sessions on and off for the last twelve years, I have become very introspective. I have not, unfortunately, grasped how to correct all the various behaviors that get me into trouble, but I have become able to identify them. Attending these therapy sessions was all fine and dandy until I had children, girls, of my own.
My goals for therapy switched drastically. I started walking into my therapy sessions with the sole focus of healing myself for my girls. How do I not pass down my own insecurities and my own fears? I know I will recognize the signs when I see them because I live them every day. I’m almost positive that issues stemming from weight, hormones, friendships, peer pressure, intimacy, grades, lifestyle choices, and mental health will haunt my girls at some point during their life. I know this because I was a girl and I have visited all the aforementioned seasons much more than once during my own lifetime – and still live in many of them.
These seasons can come and go, some lasting much longer than others, some you carry from childhood through adulthood. I’ve accepted that healing them may not always be possible but recognizing and managing one’s inner conflicts can be a considerable start on your road to recovery. While managing my internal battles I find myself very cautious and very aware of what I say and how I speak about myself. Yesterday my husband said, “Let’s get a king cake.” I responded with, “No, I’m fat.” As the word “fat” fell out of my mouth I tried to pull it back in. He gave me a side-eye, as the girls were with us, and I immediately felt so much shame. How could I have said that in front of them?! I don’t ever want them to say that about themselves! My heart sunk. I felt like I had failed them. I know, quite well, what it feels like to be “fat” or more accurately it is to believe you are “fat,” whether you are overweight or not.
I find myself celebrating when my eldest rubs my stomach and asks if there is a baby inside, only to say, “Nope, not this time honey” instead of “Oh Lord, she thinks my stomach is big enough to hold a baby inside.” Those moments hurt, don’t get me wrong, but I am trusting that my response of a gentle, “No” is much safer than saying, “Nope, I’m just that fat”. My girls will point out a zit and say, “Oh, that’s an owie, Mama.” Yup, that’s an owie and thank you for your sympathy. “You wear that sweater all the time Mama, it must be your favorite.” Yup, haven’t done the laundry or showered all week. They think I am perfect, really and truly perfect and I cannot tell you how good that feels, how that feeds the deepest part of my soul. Now, if only I could see myself that way.
When I say that I am my own worst critic, it is a gross understatement. This is usually the topic I visit in each of my sessions with a therapist. How does one get themselves out of the self-loathing and insecure cave you have been living in? How do you make sure that your two beautiful, kind and smart girls never get stuck in such a cold, dark place?
You seek help
When I first noticed my eldest showing signs of anxiety and not exhibiting appropriate coping skills, I immediately sought the help of a specialist focused on aiding children who can’t cope or need guidance on calming themselves when feeling out of control. I recognized the signs because I had done the work. I knew those signs because I exhibit them myself – again, awareness is almost as valuable as healing. I knew what guidance had done for me and if I could just work with her struggles now I could lay the groundwork for her secure and safe future. Nope. Not that simple folks.
These counseling sessions were directed toward me. I had to do the work, I had to learn how to teach her to cope with life’s challenges. It wasn’t a quick fix and I am embarrassed to say that I assumed it would be knowing what I know about my own personal coping mechanisms. It’s not rocket science but it is a survival skill that can be learned over time. It is a reprogramming of sorts, a catch-it-early kind of epidemic.
You give yourself grace
It is about consistency and compassion and a whole lot of grace for myself and for my darling daughters. I won’t say that I want them to be “everything I am not,” but I will say that I want them to be “everything they are.” I want them to be themselves, insecurities and all. I want them to be aware of it. I want them to walk into the world with conviction believing that they are the strongest people they know, in spite of feeling unsettled or what they believe to be their short-comings. I want them to fight to have their voice heard. I hope they feel safe and stable and successful. My wish is that they foster a love of self, something I am still striving for every single day. I have to be a teacher while also being a student. I have to breathe deep sometimes. I have to swallow the negative thoughts before I spit them out into the world. I have to forgive myself when I feel as if I have not measured up. What I say today won’t ruin them for tomorrow.
I have my work cut out for me going forth. It would be a whole lot easier if I believed that they were resistant to negativity. They aren’t. No one is. You second guess yourself, you believe what others think and say and feel about you. You have to do the work. There is no way around it. You do the work now and pray that there is little to reverse in the future. You hold on tight because having daughters is, most definitely, the ride of your life.