Category Archives: Body Image

When the royal bump makes as many headlines as the royal baby

Britain's Prince William, right, and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge hold the Prince of Cambridge, Tuesday July 23, 2013, as they pose for the media outside St. Mary's Hospital's exclusive Lindo Wing in London where the Duchess gave birth on Monday July 22. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Britain’s Prince William, right, and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, hold the Prince of Cambridge, Tuesday July 23, 2013, as they pose for the media on Monday July 22. The duchess’ postpartum profile made just as many headlines as the arrival of her newborn son. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Big news hit this week when Prince William and Duchess Kate appeared with their new bundle of joy for the whole world to see. There was much ado about something – from the excitement over the new heir to the unofficial town crier.

But one thing that shouldn’t have made waves among news headlines and the wide world of the mommy blogosphere was Kate’s “bravery” in showing off her post-baby belly.

What a back-handed compliment that is, isn’t it?

It’s a sad day when “bravery” is the word used when a new mother is shown sporting the natural inflation of her belly one day postpartum – as if she should be expected to hide all proof of pregnancy once her baby is born. The honest truth is, bravery shouldn’t even be associated with the acceptance of this reality – that a swollen abdomen is the natural state of a woman’s belly in the weeks, even months, after birth.

And yet, not everyone accepts this truth.

In an AP article, one woman was quoted as saying the best piece of advice she got before her first child was born was to pack a girdle in her maternity bag, and admitted to even wearing it to bed at night to hide her changed figure. (Read the article here —> http://bit.ly/11gZSxA)

One shapewear company wasted no time in using Kate’s figure to remind new mommies to hide their protruding belly.

If we were to believe Hollywood, women skip out of the delivery room wearing the same size they wore pre-pregnancy. In fact, many actresses take to hiding from the public until they’ve lost all effects the pregnancy has on their bodies.

And the pressure continues for women to feel awful about themselves if they look anything less than perfect.

Here’s the truth. The weeks after having a baby, a new mother should expect to still look pregnant. And after having a child, her body will NEVER look the same as it did before pregnancy. Some may never lose the weight, some will only hold on to a few pounds, and a few will manage to work their way into the same size. But a post-pregnant body is changed forever – from a few new stretch marks, wider hips, smaller or larger breasts, increased shoe size (seriously)….

Sixteen years ago, my mother tried to tell me this truth. I was three months pregnant, still holding on to my teeny tiny pre-pregnancy frame despite a cute little bump where my flattened stomach used to be. I had just gone shopping earlier that day, and found the cutest form fitting dress in a size I could have worn easily three months earlier. At this point, it still looked cute, though my baby belly stretched out the material at the waist. My plan was to save it for after the baby was born. But my mom pointed out that after carrying a baby for nine months, my body would never fit into that small size again.

I didn’t believe her. I reluctantly returned the dress, but I told her that she’d see, I would walk out of that hospital wearing a size 0 carrying my delicate little bundle of joy.

That little bundle of joy ended up being 9 lbs, 12 oz of solid baby. And my body was most definitely transformed after gaining FIFTY pounds throughout the whole pregnancy. While I lost 30 pounds in the hospital (thank you, gestational diabetes and extreme water gain), I held on to the rest of that weight long after the day my daughter was born.

Sixteen years later, and I don’t think my stomach has ever been back to flat.

By refusing to girdle her stomach, Kate was not being brave, she was being honest, and she was showing the public where her priorities landed – on her new son and his first appearance in front of the world. Isn’t that where all our priorities should land – on the miracle of new life instead of how large or small the mother’s belly is?

A body that has been through carrying a human being to full term should not be expected to stay the same – whether the day after birth, or when your child is getting ready to start driving a car. And the pressure of perfection being placed on a woman’s shape at any point in her life needs to stop – especially when it comes to what her body looks like after giving birth.

Bridge over troubled water weight

Here comes the bride
17 pounds ago

Roughly 9 months ago, I was wearing a white wedding dress, and was the smallest size I had ever been in my adult life. I had worked hard to get there, eating healthy foods with no cheating whatsoever, and exercising daily. I was motivated to look my best on my wedding day. Once I set my mind to it, my willpower became unbreakable. I was so successful, in fact, that my wedding dress was a little too big on my wedding day.

I had spent so many months being “good”, that when the honeymoon came, I allowed myself a week of indulgences. “I’m married now,” I joked to my husband. “I can now be fat and happy.” I enjoyed high calorie alcoholic beverages, lots of rice and beans (we were in Costa Rica, after all), BREAD, desserts…pretty much anything I wanted. I figured I was allowed to enjoy myself, that I had earned this after so many months of discipline, and that once I got back home I could get back on the wagon.

17 pounds later...and NOT pregnant
17 pounds later…barefoot and NOT pregnant

I gained 7 pounds on that honeymoon, weight I figured could be chalked up to food weight and lost easily. But I never did lose it. In fact, I ended up gaining 10 more pounds. And here I am, stuck at 17 pounds heavier and NOTHING I do can make it drop lower than that.

I’ve been eating healthy, watching everything I eat and packing my lunch daily. I am exercising, though I just can’t get myself to work out with the intensity I had before. Perhaps it’s because I just don’t have that one thing that motivates me. There’s no wedding dress to fit into, no hundred or so people to stand in front of, no photos to look my best for.

And yet, I am in a slump because I am keeping myself from eating foods just like everyone else, and I might as well be eating cupcakes and hamburgers and ice cream because the scale is not moving and my stomach is starting to look like there’s a bun in the oven.

I’ve done it before. I’ve done it several times before. So why is it so hard to lose weight now? Is 35 that age when the weight comes on….and just stays there?

P.S. Speaking of NOT being pregnant, somehow my name got on a baby mailing list. It might be because I got married last year, who knows. But I have been getting free samples of formula, free diapers, ads for baby life insurance, etc. It’s quite humorous to see my almost 50 year old husband have a near heart attack whenever these mailers arrive at the house. Perhaps it will encourage a little snip-snip, if you know what I mean… Until then, I like to tease him that we can always have another baby so he can watch his kid graduate high school when he’s 70. He’s getting closer to making that call. 😉

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Battling the baby bulge (excerpt)

I’m getting close to finishing my first round of edits on my WineCountryMom eBook.  It’s been kind of cool to read through those old entries and see where we’ve traveled from – all the things I struggled through and overcame, and how much the kids have grown since then.  It’s also pretty eye-opening to see the things I struggled with then – and still struggle with now.

Weight issues being one of them.

Granted, I’m not fat.  I’d like to get a little slimmer and a bit more firm, of course.  But we’re only talking 15 pounds, not 150 pounds.  However, I think weight will always be my issue, whether I’m big or small.

The one thing I’ve discovered differently over the years, though, is how important it is to love yourself no matter what size you are.  Our bodies are just our shells.  Whether we’re fat or thin, who we are on the inside doesn’t change.  You can lose all that weight on the outside, and still be that fat girl on the inside.  If you can’t love yourself with a few extra pounds, you won’t magically love yourself when they’re gone.

I’m working on my next article for the newspaper, and think I’ll touch on this. But for now, here’s an excerpted peek into retro WineCountryMom, and one of the chapters of the upcoming blog eBook.

BATTLING THE BABY BULGE

babybulgeI’ve been fighting the baby bulge. No, not the kind that you have when you are newly pregnant and possess a cute little bump that later turns into an adorable basketball on your tiny frame (uh, yeah, unless you’re me and even your ankles get a baby bump). I’m talking about the baby bulge you battle once the baby is already out. To be fair, I did just have a baby (eight years ago), so I can’t claim a Heidi Klum body anymore (stop laughing). But for the past year I have been trying different diets and exercises to lose the weight once and for all. And in one year I have lost (drumroll please)…..

Ten pounds.

Yes, that’s right. Only ten pounds. And do you know why? Because of yo-yo dieting. It’s getting ridiculous. I have pretty much lost and gained the same ten pounds more times that I can keep track of…

End of excerpt. Read the rest in the eBook “Golf Balls, Eight Year Olds & Dual Paned Windows“.

 

Oh, fat baby.

How did I do it before – the effortless way I lost weight before the wedding, when I actually said out loud that I needed to figure out how to stop the weight loss so that my dress didn’t fall off?

How arrogant of me.

The official tally of weight gained since the day I left for the honeymoon is in. Are you ready for this? 7 pounds. That’s the weight of a newborn. You guys, in less than a month I have gained a child in my thighs and belly. And it’s not a cute widdle baby.

It might be the fact that I am doing more writing than ever this month – not just the novel, but the articles I signed up for this month that have me facing heavy deadlines every week on articles that require more time than I have (which is  a burden, admittedly, I totally love).  It might be the fact that I am getting hardly any sleep, my body clock thinking 3:30am is a perfect time to wake up when I really don’t need to be up until 5am.  It’s probably the fact that my stomach stretched out from a week of overeating, causing me to sit at my desk with a need to put food in my face at all times.

7 pounds.  One month.  Sigh. At this rate I’ll have twins by the New Year.

Thank god it’s bundle up sweater season.

Tempting fantasies

I dream in chocolate. It taunts me. That luscious dark brown color, the smoothness in its texture. I want to inhale its aroma and then slip it in my mouth, savoring it as it melts down my throat in a satisfactory climactic explosion of cocoa bliss. I want to bite into salted truffles, guzzle thick hot chocolate with whipped cream, lick creamy chocolate frosting, bury my face in chocolate cake, devour chocolate covered strawberries, slip into a Cadbury Egg, and sprinkle chocolate shavings on everything from pancakes to soup to toast to straight onto my waiting tongue.

But I can’t. I won’t. It’s the last of my Lenten promises that I have yet to break, and so I’m refraining from submitting to this momentary pleasure that might be worth the guilt.

Instead, I’m eating everything in sight to compensate.

I admit it. I’m in a rut. I’m so sick of eating clean. It’s not only chocolate I fantasize about, but big juicy cheeseburgers in a fluffy white bun, greasy pieces of pizza, milkshakes, buttered popcorn, moist cupcakes, melted cheese on crackers, strangely addicting red vines, sour cream….. All the stuff I can’t have. I haven’t had dairy in over a month. Besides one slip-up over the weekend, I can’t remember the last time I ate bread.

Frankly, I’m bored with Paleo.

To save my system from fully paying me back, however, I’m sticking to it. But I need to find a way to stop compensating with endless snacking to make up for the unsatisfaction left by my boring food. It does no good to eat clean if I’m snacking every time I feel anything – hungry, bored, the wind blow…. The worst is when I’m sitting at my desk and having a brain fart. Automatic reply is to reach for some nuts, or eat the part of my lunch I was saving for later, or cave and go to the vending machine and get some potato chips because, hey, they’re potatoes and not bread, right?

I need a distraction from food.

A personal battle with child obesity

One of the lowest points of this past year was when a reader left a comment on my blog, remarking that the Taz had gained a considerable amount of weight. I deleted it as soon as I read it, afraid that he might see it. And then I hemmed and hawed over that comment, whether I should have left it or was right to leave it off.

In the end, it remains deleted, even as I print the words on this blog post.

I mention that deleted comment because weight is a very huge part in our resolutions this year. The Taz is overweight. He knows it. I know it. And it’s been known for a while. It’s something we’ve struggled with all year long. Last January, I mentioned the weight problem and our goals to tackle it. I received a lot of support from other people struggling with weight issues of their own – either with their kid or with themselves. And it really helped to motivate us in our health journey.

But somewhere along the way, we lost track.

Maybe it was busyness, or maybe laziness (or maybe a combination of the two), but I stopped paying close enough attention to what the Taz was eating and how much screen time and play time he was getting. I allowed him to make his own lunches, trusting him to make the right choices in what he was eating. But at 10 years old, willpower can be a very nonexistent thing. A corn muffin and chips sound like a way better lunch than a turkey sandwich and an apple, right? He hadn’t developed healthy habits that were strong enough to be able to make good choices. And yet I was putting the power in his hands.

We were both bound to fail.

What the Taz really needed from me was to take control of the battle for his health. With the New Year fast approaching, I knew I needed a game plan. I was afraid for the Taz’ health, and afraid that he’d be destined towards a life of obesity. Thing is, I didn’t really know where to start. And that’s when I came across the book, Healthy Choices, Healthy Children, by Lori S. Brizee, MS, RD, CSP (a registered dietitian and certified specialist in pediatric nutrition) and Sue Schumann Warner (an award winning journalist and author).

Now don’t get me wrong, I was mailed this book with the hopes that I would do a review on it. And being that faithful book reviewer that I am, I put it aside and almost forgot about it. But in a moment when I was going over a meal plan for the first week of January, I suddenly remembered this book and pulled it out to start reading. What I found were chapters that gave step-by-step instructions on how to turn around bad habits and change them for healthier ones.

The first thing the authors are clear on is having respect for the body. The book comes from a spiritual point of view, but the message is relevant whether the reader is religious or not. We should treat our bodies more kindly, respecting them with healthier food and keeping them active so they can continue to do us good. The authors go on to encourage parents to involve their kids in the shopping and cooking process, teaching them the “hows” of eating. And at the end of each chapter, an action is listed for the week to help continue down a path of healthy decisions.

What I love most about this book is the fact that it is step-by-step instead of all-or-nothing. Each chapter is another rung up the ladder towards instilling good habits in eating and exercise. The guidelines offers small changes that can be made each week – making it the ideal model for busy parents (like me!) to help our families be successful in establishing healthy choices. Real recipes are offered in the book (I’ve actually included a couple on my meal plan for the week), and there are different ideas listed to encourage activities for the whole family. There’s even a chapter on helping picky children (like my veggie-averted son) to eat well.

I’ve found this book to be incredibly useful to help me get the Taz back on a healthier track, and to give me the tools to know how to do it. If you’re interested in checking out the book, Lori S. Brizee will be at the Petaluma Copperfields (140 Kentucky St) on January 28th at 7pm to promote her book, “Healthy Choices, Healthy Children”. I hope you can make it to hear her speak and pick up her book for your own family.

For more info or to purchase this book ($13), visit paracletepress.com.

How to answer "Does this outfit make me look fat?"

DQ was in our room this morning putting her hair up and borrowing my make-up – our usual morning routine while I’m getting ready and Mr. W is getting his coffee on. “Does my hair look bad like this?” she asked me. And I paused long enough for her to realize I wasn’t crazy about the look. “You hate it, don’t you,” she asked.

“No, I don’t hate it. It’s just not my favorite,” I admitted. She messed with it some more before finally taking it out and brushing it to start over. Mr. W came back in the room and I booted her out so he could shower. “Sorry, DQ,” I said, knowing she was struggling for her hair to work the way she wanted it to.

“It’s ok,” she said, leaving her mess on the counter for me to clean up. “I think my hair looks better down.” And she closed the door behind her.

“Sorry you have to kick her out,” Mr. W said once she was gone. “I guess this is like your bonding time, right?”

“Sort of,” I replied. “It’s more like her opportunity to use up all my make-up and hairspray, get an opinion on her hair and see if her outfit makes her look fat.”

Mr. W paused thoughtfully, mulling that over before turning back to me.

“How exactly do you answer that question – ‘Does this outfit make me look fat?’” he asked me seriously.

“Well you never say ‘yes’,” I told him. “Even if it does, you never say an outfit makes a girl look fat.”

“So what do you say?” he asked me.

“You say ‘Well, I’ve seen you look better,’ or suggest an outfit that is really flattering on them.”

“Really? That’s like 6 words compared to 1.” He held up his fingers to mimic people talking.

Finger 1: “Does this make me look fat?”
Finger 2: “Yes.”

Or…

Finger 1: “Does this make me look fat?”
Finger 2: “Well, I’ve seen you look better…”

“See?  It’s just way more effort than just telling her that it does,” he said.

“Except that’s not exactly how it would go,” I corrected him, then held up my own fingers.

Finger 1: “Does this make me look fat?”
Finger 2: “Yes.”
Finger 1: “Really. So you’re calling me fat?”
Finger 2: “No, wait. That’s not what I meant.”
Finger 1: “Oh I know what you meant. You think I’m fat.”
Finger 2: “You’re not fat. That outfit doesn’t make you look fat. In fact, it makes you look really skinny.”
Finger 1: “It’s fine. Whatever.”
Finger 2: “I’m serious! Have you lost weight?”
Finger 1: (no longer speaking, but finger manages to give a dirty look)
Finger 2: “I’m really sorry, sweetie.”
Finger 1: (still not speaking, but gives him the finger)
Finger 2: (sighs) “Can we just go now? You look really great.”
Finger 1: “I’m no longer in the mood. Just go without me. I’ll be here starving myself so I’m not so fat.”

Or…

Finger 1: “Does this make me look fat?”
Finger 2: “No, but I think those other pants make your butt look really hot.”
Finger 1: “Hmmmm…. You know, you’re right. I think I’ll wear those. Thank you sweetie!”

I smirked at Mr. W and went back to doing my hair. “See? It actually saves you a ton of time.”  He laughed out loud.

“Really?” he laughed.

“Really,” I told him matter-of-factly. I concentrated on my hair that was having it’s own issues. I had blow dried it, curled it, put it up, brushed it down…and it was flat as a pancake and just not cooperating. “Ugh! I hate my hair! It’s just not working!” I said. I managed to finally get it up in a messy bun that looked almost decent, and then checked it from the back.  I looked at Mr. W and raised my eyebrows quizzically to see what his opinion was.

“Well, I’ve seen it look better,” he said, then ducked behind the bathroom door to take his shower before I could smack him with the towel.

My Flabby Friends

Mr. W and I decided to tackle our first building project together. We had been at Cost Plus World Market, my favorite candy store for home décor I covet, when we came across a shelving system that doubled as a full length mirror. It was gorgeous, made of dark wood, and swiveled so you could use the shelves on one side to store all your miscellaneous crap and then turn it around to hide it all while you checked out your appearance on the mirror side. For a clutter monger like me, this was a brilliant way to make my mess look chic. So we bought it and brought it home, and successfully tackled the project together without even bickering once (mostly).

I already have a full-length mirror in our bedroom. I bought it years ago for my own apartment, hanging it on my bedroom door. I used it all the time to check every side of my outfit. But since it’s a hanging mirror, it nearly fell down every single time I closed the door. So when I moved in with Mr. W I decided to just lean it against the wall rather than hang it for my daily outfit checks. And since it leaned at an upward angle, it had the magical feature of being incredibly slimming. Naturally, this became my very favorite mirror to check my outfit in. I lost about 10 pounds every single time I did the obligatory butt-check in front of it. But when we bought our new swivel mirror, I passed my cheap version of a full-length mirror on to my daughter and anxiously anticipated the completion of our beautiful dark wood mirror.

When our building project was done, we placed the mirror in the corner of the room right near the sink where we had 3 other mirrors on the wall. This was so I could see every single side of me at once while getting ready – a 4-way mirror if you will. And then we swiveled it towards the room and stood in front of it, Mr. W behind me. Except I couldn’t even see Mr. W. He was hidden behind my hips and thighs that seemed to have gained quite a bit of girth since switching mirrors.

Oh my jeez, where did those come from???

Over the weekend I had felt like the belle of the ball. On Saturday I had attended a 1950’s themed Anniversary Party wearing a dress my grandmother had made and worn in the 50’s. It was cinched at the waist and flared out like a bell at the hips. On Sunday was my sister’s bridal shower and I wore another slimming dress that was white with flowers, loosening at the exact place my pooch began to disguise my figure into something way thinner than reality. But in those two dresses, I felt like I was my teenage self again, pretending my butt was dainty and my body lithe. But here in front of the mirror wearing old sweat pants, a shapeless shirt, and nothing to hold up the droopiness of my mom bags, I was suddenly a very distinct pear. It was like I was seeing my body for the first time ever. And it was worse having my boyfriend totally lost behind the fullness of my hips.

Wanda Sykes went on tour sometime after she and her partner adopted a set of adorable twin babies (The “I’mma Be Me” tour). Becoming a parent, Wanda’s material has become that much funnier as she described the antics of her baby boy and girl, and the words we parents would love to say to our own children before they’re old enough to know what “Go the EFF to Sleep” means (sidenote: Have you seen this book?  Totally brilliant. I think I might buy it for my teenage daughter who has forgotten sleep happens at night, even in the summertime). But I nearly died when she started describing her stomach pooch – giving it the identity of “Esther”. Esther loved bread and alcohol, The Cheesecake Factory, and hated Spanx.

Here’s a clip (caution: a tidbit of bad language):

And in her book Traveling Mercies, Anne Lamott described “Butt Mind”,  when she goes on vacation and then obsesses about everyone’s butt in relation to hers. On good vacations she’d see a wide variety of butts where hers fit in somewhere in the middle. But on tropical vacations, there were generally a lot of younger and smaller butts, making her butt feel especially wide. And then there were her dimply, jiggly thighs. Thing is, Anne had grown accustomed to the ol’ gals, tenderly referring to them as “The Aunties”, regarding them like faithful friends. She squeezed the Aunties into her favorite swimsuit and made her way down to the beach without even a cover-up. And she felt beautiful and womanly…until she happened upon a group of slender teenage girls. Worse, they looked at her. Worse than that, they turned to each other and gave a look – the same amused look Anne confessed to giving her own friends once upon a time when they’d happen upon a middle-aged flabby woman in her swimsuit.

But then Anne saw something else – a secret. These young girls in their perfect bodies and sunkissed skin, with butts that were tiny and no thighs to speak of whatsoever – they didn’t view themselves as perfect. And in the look they gave each other as they regarded Anne and the Aunties, there was also an unsurety about their own appearance and what they felt they were lacking.

And Anne was suddenly ok in her body once again, and apologized over and over to the poor Aunties – the very same Aunties who had been regarded as beautiful before the teenagers appeared on the beach.

This morning I stood in front of my 4-way mirror as I got ready. While I put on my make-up, I watched how I looked from the side. When I brushed my teeth, I regarded how parts of me moved even after the toothbrush was placed back in its holder. When I secured my hair in a ponytail, I studied the shape of my arms against my sleeves. And while part of me made promises to firm up the parts of my body that were no longer firm, the other part of me remembered the acceptance I had gained over the years for my body. In my youth I had picked apart every single aspect of a figure that needed no changing. My skin was too pale. Fat existed in invisible pockets. My nose was too big. I had too many freckles. What I hadn’t realized was that I would wish for that body more than anything in my later years. What I gained now, however, was the comfort that still existed in my image even when I sometimes wished it were more perfect. I didn’t mind that my skin wasn’t tan. In fact, it was better that way to help prevent lines in my face, or even the somehow more real danger of skin cancer. My nose no longer feels too long. My face may have grown into it, but it’s more likely that I just got used to it. And the freckles I once hated are now one of my most favorite features of my face.

We all have insecurities. It doesn’t matter if you’re a size 2 or size 22, there are parts of ourselves we wish were different. And at the same time, there are parts of our bodies and features that are stunning. An even bigger truth – all of our parts together equal something totally unique and exotic – different from everyone else in this whole entire world. When we compare our bodies with those of other who are younger, fitter, lighter than we are, we are betraying ourselves. We are putting ourselves up against something we will never live up to. I will never be Heidi Klum, no matter how much I exercise or diet. I won’t even be my gorgeous sister or my fit and toned friend. They are not me. And I am not them. All I can be is me. And I am beautiful, as are YOU.

We owe it to ourselves to celebrate in that.

As for the thighs, butt, and mom pooch? I’m not going to lie, I’m still working on that. It’s not an overnight process. But I think I’ve found the answer. I just need to name them something cute and think of them like friends – dimply, flabby friends – but friends nonetheless.

Talking puberty with tweens

I was talking with a friend the other day, and the subject of his 5th grade daughter’s impending Sex Ed class came up.  At his daughter’s school, the parents were invited to view the video their children prior to the official viewing.  And so my friend and his wife attended.  They learned that Sex Ed at this age actually has more to do with an adolescent’s changing body – helping the 5th graders become more familiar with their body parts, as well as the body parts of the opposite sex.  And my friend was able to sit back comfortably for the most part as the video played…well, almost.

“My daughter is never going to look at the world in the same way,” my friend said wistfully as he described a part of the movie that showed an animation of a penis becoming erect.

And it isn’t because he didn’t want her to learn these things.  Of course she needed to know about the human body, about the changes she was going to go through, and even the changes that boys were going through too.  But it mirrored the feelings of many parents as their child is suddenly let in on the fact that their body holds more secrets than they ever knew about – and so does the bodies of their friends and classmates.

In a matter of one video, my friend’s daughter was about to lose her sandbox innocence.

In 5th grade, Sex Ed is introduced in a class about the changes a tween is about to go through: hormones, sweat glands, body odor, menstruation, nighttime secretions, growth spurts, voice changes, and all of the other things that come along with puberty.  Sexual intercourse isn’t discussed yet in this class.  However, what they cover in this short class opens the door to at least a dozen more questions that aren’t answered – and are encouraged to be asked at home.  These questions might be about the different feelings going on inside, feeling abnormal because everything is growing at different rates, even questions that may lead up to the actual Sex Talk, and all that comes along with it.

The impending arrival of these conversations leaves many parents nervous about how and when to bring the topic of sex up.  No one wants their kid to be the only one still believing in the stork by the time they hit high school.  And let me assure you, thanks to their classmates, they won’t.  However, telling your child “Hey buddy, I’d like to talk about sex with you” can illicit an immediate shutdown from your teen who would rather go to the dentist for a root canal than talk about “the deed” with dear old mom and dad. 

So what to do?

There’s no right or wrong way to bring up the subject, as every family is different.  But it is important to pay attention to cues, jumping through when a door has opened up on the subject. 

Bring up their Sex Ed class at school.  This is the easiest time to talk about puberty and sex.  Ask them what they’ve learned.  Open the dialogue up for any questions they have.  Be as honest as you can with them.  If they ask something personal that you don’t feel comfortable answering, like about your own past or present sex life, don’t be afraid to tell them you’d rather keep that personal.  But whatever you do, don’t lie. 

Use the media (and you thought TV was just for zoning out).  Turns out that all you have to do is turn on the Boob Tube, and you’ve got an instant example for sex education.  And believe me, there’s plenty.  Scenarios in different sitcoms, stories on the news, even some commercials can induce a topic on sex education.  Pay attention, and use these examples whenever you can.  Take the opportunity to discuss what could have happened if the person on TV had made a different decision.  Point out instances and consequences that aren’t in line with what would have happened had it occurred in real life.  Discuss the cause and effect someone’s choice created for them. 

Have a safe place for deeper conversations.  For my family, it’s the car.  There’s no one to overhear, making each kid feel more comfortable to share or listen about things of a more personal nature.  And since we’re on the road a lot, I have 20 minutes or more of their undivided attention (read: they have nowhere to escape) as we chat about bigger topics.  Sex is one of those.  This is when I ask them what they already know, answering any questions or correcting anything that might be incorrect or slightly off-base.  And I do my best to make it a two-way conversation rather than a lecture that might get tuned out. 

Gather books, pamphlets, or other educational material on bodies and/or about sex.  However, don’t let the pamphlets or the books do all the talking (as I know many of your own parents did).  Let these merely be the conversation opener.  Sit down with your child after they’ve had the chance to read them (even if they choose not to) and talk about what’s covered in the material.  Of course, that also means you need to read whatever you are passing on to your child.  But then you can tell your kids “You know, I actually found this to be of interest” when referencing a certain section of the book.  And let me tell you, there are actually some really great books out there about growing bodies, many that are made to be interesting to the younger generation.  For my son, I got “The Boy’s Body Book: Everything You Need to Know for Growing Up YOU”, by Kelli Dunham and Steven Bjorkman.  For my daughter I got “Girl Stuff: A Survival Guide to Growing Up” by Margaret Blackstone and Elissa Haden Guest.  Both books covered not only the physical changes, but talked about hygiene, tips on day-to-day life and interests, as well as touching on emotions that are going on inside.  And while both kids groaned when I handed the books to them, I know for a fact that they have each opened them and at least thumbed through them.  And it helped to introduce a bit of conversation about their bodies.

Use your own experiences.  How did you feel when you suddenly needed to go shopping for a bra with your mom?  Were you embarrassed the first time you got an erection?  Was there a learning curve when it came to knowing how or when to change your pad during your period?  How did you go about disguising zits when they appeared overnight?  Did you ever feel like the most awkward kid at school?  If your child is able see you as the gangly, imperfect tween that you were, they’ll feel more comfortable sharing their own insecurities, fears, questions, or concerns about growing up.

And understand that, by no means, is the Sex Talk a one-time conversation.  Rather, it’s a series of conversations to keep having as they grow older and are in need of more information.  The info you share with them in 5th grade is going to be way different than the conversations about sex you have with them as a teenager.  You don’t have to tell them everything you know the first time you talk – that’s going to either make them tune out, or totally creep them out.  But do know that, if the dialogue is kept open right from the beginning, it will feel way more natural and easy to discuss by the time the harder conversations need to be brought up.

Is your child going through Sex Ed right now?  How’s it going – for them and for you?

P.S. I’ve been nominated in the 25 Best Blogs on Single Parenting over at Circle of Moms, and there is a week left to vote.  So far I’m in 12th place!  But I won’t stay there without continued votes.  Will you take a moment to visit the site and vote?  You can vote for more than one blog (and there are some other really great blogs there!), and you can vote every single day.  Thank you so much!

Push-up bikinis for tweens

Abercrombie Kids is marketing push-up bikini tops for tweens. Being that the clothing company makes clothes for ages 7-14, it has caused quite the uproar among parents of 7 year olds who don’t have much there to actually push-up – and are too young to be putting their chest out there front and center anyways. But never fear. Being that the smallest size is for girls 56 to 58 inches tall with a 27.5 to 28.5 bust, the tops are actually too big for a 7 year old, and are more for girls  who are 11 or 12 year old or older.

But even that raises some eyebrows. 12 years olds in a push-up bikini? Are we allowing our tweens to be oversexualized too early?

A mom sent me an article the other day regarding this very issue, about how tops have gotten more lowcut and skirts have raised the hem – and how it is OUR cash that is paying for our teens and tweens to dress a lot more promiscuously than should be appropriate.

As for the girls themselves, if you ask them why they dress the way they do, they’ll say (roughly) the same things I said to my mother: “What’s the big deal?” “But it’s the style.” “Could you be any more out of it?” What teenage girl doesn’t want to be attractive, sought-after and popular?
And what mom doesn’t want to help that cause? In my own case, when I see my daughter in drop-dead gorgeous mode, I experience something akin to a thrill—especially since I myself am somewhat past the age to turn heads.
(Read more HERE.)

But Jeanne Sager of Café Stir has a different take on what a push-up bikini top is for a tween. It’s less about being oversexualized and more about giving a tween confidence. For those in the “barely there” club, a little extra oomph when all your peers are boasting mini-cleavage on the beach can be the difference between hiding on a towel covered by a shirt or running around in a swimsuit without worries of being compared to a pancake.

A little push-up can go a long way toward making them feel like their top won’t fall off on the beach (because there’s nothing to HOLD IT THERE). So is it sexualization to make kids comfortable? Not really.

A commenter agreed with Jeanne, giving her own experience:

“…I about said I wouldn’t on a 12 year old then i stopped and remembered what it was like for me at 12 with really no chest to speak of and being horribly self conscious about it. I would have done anything to add a couple extra inches onto my bust just to look normal. However for those parents who are about to yell at you they just need to stop and remember that they are the parent and all they have to do is just not buy it if they feel that strongly about it.”

For me, I remember doing everything I could at the age of 12 to hide my body on the beach.  Bikini?  Uh, no thank you.  It wasn’t that I was overdeveloped or underdeveloped, it was that showing that much skin when I was accustomed to hiding under jeans and a baggy sweatshirt was mortifying.  And at 13, my own daughter has yet to graduate from her comfy choice of swim trunks to a regular bathing suit.  And we’re not alone in this.  Plenty of girls are less comfortable in the string bikinis with a slight push-up that Abercrombie has on their racks, and more comfortable in something a little less revealing. 

And knowing all that, it actually makes me get the whole “confidence in a push-up” thing.  And I can’t say that I would turn my daughter away if she wanted to wear a bikini to the beach that allowed her to move around a bit more comfortably, escaping the awkwardness that goes along with the age – at least for a little while.  But at the same time, that very concept makes me cringe a little….because it also seems that the message we are giving girls is that their confidence lies in the size of their breasts, and that being just 12 isn’t good enough.

What do you think? Are we allowing our tweens to grow up too fast, encouraging them to find their sexuality sooner than ever? Or is a push-up bikini top for a 12 year old more about allowing an older tween to feel more confident in a body they normally feel awkward in?