A few years ago, I arrived early to pick up my oldest son from a basketball practice. They were just splitting into teams to scrimmage and one team was assigned “shirts” while the other “skins”. JC, then probably 6 or 7, was assigned to the “skins” team. I watched as he asked to sit out of the game and went to the side line where he started crying. I knew better than to walk over there so I let him work through it as he finished up the practice.
Once we made it to the car, I asked him what happened. He wouldn’t answer and didn’t want to talk about it. We got home and I tried to approach the topic a few times that evening and he still was avoiding the discussion. He LOVES basketball so I was so confused as to what could be bothering him. He even said he wanted to keep going to practices. After awhile I finally said (which may not have been the best way to crack him…) “JC we aren’t going to pay $X a month for basketball for you to not enjoy it”. To which he blurted out “Mom, I’m just so small and I didn’t want to take of my shirt for everyone to see”.
I have always made a conscious effort not to talk about my body in a negative way in front of my boys (or in front of anyone or even in my own head for that matter). However, this was a BIG wake up call for me. Somewhere he had gotten the idea that being short and/or small was a bad thing. I realized that while I had never intentionally been negative, there was likely a few times that I had tried to reach something on a high shelf and said something to the effect “I would kill for a couple more inches right now”.
My heart hurt for him. So from that moment on I made it my quest to celebrate the fact that I am 5 feet tall. In the months that followed I made sure to say things like “good things come in small packages”, “I’m small but mighty”, “do you know that short people live longer?” and on and on. It has been truly amazing to see his confidence and self-acceptance take off.
It’s hard being a parent (gross understatement). This experience and many, many others teach me what a powerful influence I have on my children in how they view themselves and the world. That is totally overwhelming and totally inspiring all at the same time. But it all comes back to this: I truly believe the best gift you can give your children is to love yourself. It’s a constant practice, but one that has a huge impact on everyone involved.
You have probably seen this article by now but I think it’s worth another share and another read. I would say these principles apply to boys just as much as girls.
Oh, and, this past week at Ben’s very hot flag football game, JC took of his jersey while he waited for his game to start.
Emily Fonnesbeck RD, CD