15 Oct Facing the Beast
When you embark on parenthood, there is something those with parenting advice fail to mention, or at least no one told me: the past is not behind you. Your own childhood will not be a far off memory. Becoming a parent makes us think our past has nothing to do with this new time, new slate, new child. But here is what new parents need to know, any of the unresolved issues from your own childhood, that you thought were ancient history, might come back around to look you in the eyes.
There is a clinical name for this, discussed in the book Emotional Sobriety by Tian Dayton (2007, Read more here), called “age correspondence reaction.”This age correspondence happened to me with my first born. Our commonalities start with our gender, blue eyes, and blond hair. I recognized in her a trait I also possess—along with 20% of the population (E. Aron)— being a highly sensitive person. We are affected more deeply by noise, change, smell, emotion, light, and many other things.
It is both a great blessing and, at times, a curse. As I watch my daughter grow, her sweet soul touches mine in ways I never thought possible. When she was around the age of 4 I started to look at her and remember being her age. I started to consider the obstacles I faced at her age and how that related to being a highly sensitive person. It was difficult; it is difficult. The things I repressed, dismissed and downplayed were back on the table. I was facing my past.
Not everything was high drama or traumatic, often the hardest things were moments of shame or sadness I did not have the capacity to resolve as a young girl. Each year as she has grown, I remember things about being her age in a new way, reliving my own childhood through her eyes. Watching my daughter grow has been the catalyst to heal my past. This connection to our own upbringing is what is not mentioned in new parenting manuals.
This brings me to the present. She is now 9 years old. When I was 10 years old I wrote a book called Fat, Fat, Fat. I was awarded and acknowledged for voicing my fear of fat from a local college at a Young Authors Day Conference. After that the book was tucked away in storage for many years and has recently come back out into the light. I have finally come to face the demons of my past and how body shaming was an undercurrent throughout my life. The idea of sharing this book with my daughter is paralyzing me. She is so close to the age I was when I wrote the book and yet, I still do not want her to read it. I want to protect her, but how?
The truth is the body shaming beast of our culture is bigger than me. It had me in its mouth for many years, it almost swallowed me whole, but I fought, I kicked, I screamed. I grew hot with rage and it spit me out. I am free now, but what about my precious daughter? How do I keep her from being consumed by something so big and so powerfully alive in our culture?
It is by owning my story.
It is time for me to share Fat, Fat, Fat with her. It is time for my daughter to meet the 10 year old me. It is time for us all to face the beast.