For All The Parents Out There…

Think about how you will react if your child is fat.  Over time, if you’re making it clear that you don’t want a fat son or daughter, well, your son or daughter may not be able to stop being fat.  But your son or daughter can eventually choose to stop being your son or daughter.  Imagine your adult child building a life with people who aren’t nagging about weight loss, or who can enjoy doing something physical without making it about weight loss, or who can eat a meal without it being about weight loss.  Calling home?  Not required.  Spending time together?  Optional.  Listening to lame weight jokes?  Optional.

There are certainly other issues that can cause this sort of distrust.  It didn’t help that my parents’ reaction to my dating a woman was insist I not tell any other family members and then studiously not  want to talk about her much less meet her.  It didn’t help that my father drank large amounts of beer daily for the first 20 or 21 years of their marriage.   A lot of things didn’t help.   But it’s generally expected that drinking or rejecting a child’s sexuality is going to be harmful to the relationship.  Giving kids shit for being fat is practically a requirement of “good parenting” these days.

My dad periodically asks why he can’t move in with my husband and I.   Frankly?  I don’t want to provide day-to-day care for him.  I distanced myself for my emotional safety.   I wouldn’t want him as a roommate, much less as a semi-disabled adult I’m caring for.  My emotions are tangled on this, but my want is for him to live happily ever after … without needing me.

26 thoughts on “For All The Parents Out There…

  1. Drinking and rejecting a child for their sexuality can be long-term damaging for a kid, but yes, a lifetime of fat shaming is definitely damaging as well. I think a lot of parents forget that their kids will grow up some day and have the choice whether or not to continue being a part of the family.

  2. My late mother shamed me about my appearance in general (fat included) from adolescence way into adulthood, and made it clear that none of my other qualities made up for not looking acceptable. Yet when my mother’s health started to fail, all of a sudden I was her ‘special daughter’ and I was going to give up my job (and probably my husband) and move 150 miles to become her 24/7 carer, and she refused to listen to any of my objections until my older brother took her in hand. (He was the golden boy who could do no wrong, and she took him seriously as an adult in a way she never did with me; he’s remained relatively undamaged by the situation, although I suspect he still doesn’t truly realize how nasty she was to me about some things – especially appearance/size, because he’s much the same build as me, but never got the flak for it because boys were ‘allowed’ to be bigger.)

    Too often people think that because parents are parents, adult children ‘owe’ them something regardless of their behavior. (And not even the other criteria you mentioned are always seen as good reason for distancing; I know one person who regarded it as her absolute duty to take in an alcoholic mother who’d spread vicious lies about her husband all over town, simply because she was her mother.) You’ve made the right decision to protect yourself – the hard part is dealing with the people who’ll try and emotionally blackmail you out of it.

  3. It’s sad that he can’t see that he’s responsible for your perfectly understandable lack of interest in having him live with you.

    My dad was only rude to me about my weight once in 40 years. But then he was fat himself. My sister is a regular fatshamer, and yet she can’t understand why we aren’t close anymore. Such a mystery!

    • It’s sad that he can’t see that he’s responsible for your perfectly understandable lack of interest in having him live with you.

      Well, the dementia doesn’t help me explain it, either. At the moment the practical problems (I don’t think you could handle the stairs, you’d be alone all day) are working well enough to do fine.

      In talking with the healthcare types, there’s been a few questions, but mostly there’s some relief that I’m not expecting him to move in with me. I think the professionals have seen people do the “Well of course I’ll take care of Dad” go south enough that they’re careful of it.

  4. I agree with you that weight/fat shaming is damaging to parent/child relationships, my mum constantly went on at me about my weight when I was a child and I have very disordered eating habits that were in large part (no pun intended) caused by her.

    I do not, however, think that there is necessarily a widespread acceptance of the idea that it is wrong and damaging for children to be sexually shamed or punished for expressing their sexuality, whether we’re talking about orientation or other things like masturbation and privacy for it or bans on dating or sex until X age or refusal to provide the kid with contraceptives or denial of sex education or those parents who campaign to make laws that force kids to notify or even get consent from their parents if they want an abortion (not only are they horrific for what they do to pregnant girls as individuals, but for what they say about the relationship that those parents have with their children who like the idea of forcing a kid to tell their parents even if it’s going to result in them being murdered or raped or beaten or even just socially isolated from their friends and any other support by some draconian grounding, they really believe that the parent owns the child and not only is that indefensible on human rights grounds, it’s not a recipe for children feeling supported and loved by and having good relationships with their parents).

    I do, however, agree that alcoholism is generally accepted to be damaging.

  5. My mother has her fair share of psychoses and abusive behavior, but to her credit she never gave me or any of my siblings any problems over being obese. I’m eternally grateful.

    My father is never abusive, but he believes most of the bad stereotypes about fatness and has lost more than 40 pounds for the second time in ten years through a fanatical diet and exercise regimen. I would be delighted by the health implications… if there was any evidence that fat loss (even the ultra rare sustained fat loss) affects mortality rates – to my knowledge there is none.

    I’m truly sorry for anyone who suffered abuse from their parents over their size. We fat folk have enough problems from society in general without getting attacked at home. :(

  6. My father abused me for being overweight when I was a teen and young adult. I was not even overweight during many years of the abuse, but I wasn’t as thin as he would have liked. I wasn’t Hollywood thin. The rare times I see him, he says things like boy, you got fat. I have other reasons not to see him, but his obsession with my weight doesn’t endear me to him. He is now at that age where his health isn’t so good, but his wife, my mother, can care for him. If anything happened to my mother, then my sister or brother that he doesn’t call fat can care for him.

  7. That first paragraph is a succinct masterpiece.

    I’ve gradually pulled back from my family over the years because their lack of respect for me, which is all based, ultimately, on fat stigma, just never quit. I wasn’t ready to cut them out of my life, but I am very ready to limit my time spent with them. They finally noticed something was up when I only scheduled a two day visit last Christmas, but they don’t understand why. I feel no compulsion to explain. For years I tried to explain how they were hurting me and got nowhere. So this is the situation they created, even though they’ll probably never know.

  8. This whole entry…All of it. My mom has really laid on the fat-shaming lately, and the fat jokes were part of what chilled any warm, fuzzy feelings I had for my dad. Not froze them over, but at least chilled them a bit.

    The worst thing is that my mom really, really thinks that she’s doing this “for my health”, when what it’s doing is making me feel anxious and kind of sad for her because she believes all the stereotypes about fat people, the principal one being that all fat people are unhealthy and she says that she doesn’t want to have to bury me (…and yet she didn’t have this concern when I was twelve and I had far, far more suicidal thoughts than I do now. As in, “I may actually have done it”.).

    I love the first paragraph especially. It’s something that makes me feel at least a little better when dumbass fat jokes from both parents and all three of my siblings come up, when my mom starts haranging me out of “concern”. I do not have to put up with it anymore.
    And no one should have to put up with anything like that in the first place.

  9. I left home at 15 and haven’t spoken to my mother since I was 17. I was only a few months old the first time she wanted to put me on a diet, so I can literally say that fat shaming was an issue practically since the day I was born. I sometimes think of trying to renewing the relationship, with rules firmly in place, but I just get so tired when I think about it. My life is simpler without her in it.

  10. This idea is really difficult for me – I come from an environment where family is central and important. I had a great upbringing, and health (fitness, happiness, fulfilment), rather than weight, was important.

    I can’t imagine *choosing* not to be involved in my parents lives – but I also can’t imagine *choosing* to bully your children by fat-shaming them.

    As adults we have the ability to make choices (to treat our children with respect, to decline to spend time with family who are disrespectful) and it is up to us to make sure we are happy with those choices.

    I’m really sorry for the situation you’re in with your father. It can’t be easy.

  11. Pingback: Ways to screw up your kids | closetpuritan

  12. Excellent post. I am from a similar situation to that you describe, and as a result, am estranged from almost all of my family. However, those that I am estranged from are not able to understand at all why, despite my repeatedly trying to communicate it to them.

    It is healthier for me to not have family in my life, simple as that.

  13. I have almost nothing to do with my father except when my mother nags at me to send pictures or my older half sister (his firstborn) sends me a card to sign with an envelop already stamped to send. He was verbally abusive and yes, my weight came into play numerous times. There are times I wonder if my weight wasn’t a protective mechanism. He wasn’t thin himself and overbearing and there was a point where I had or was starting to outweigh him and was losing my fear of him. Course that all changed when he brought a loaded rifle into my apartment and killed my younger sister’s first husband in front of me. He’s now in prison for life as is my mother. I ended up testifying against both of them at their respective trials (ironically, there was a time where I was very much in control of both my eating and exercise and lose a bit of weight only to regain it all and then some once everything with my mother’s trial and sentencing was said and done). I do keep in contact with my mother by phone. I’m not allowed to visit her (or my dad) by the prison system because there is concern that they could revictimize me. My mother knows that there are boundaries and knows that the consequences of her over-stepping those boundaries is me not talking to her and since I’m the only one who talks to her with any degree of regularity (asides from my dad’s firstborn writing her to her), she doesn’t dare do anything to endanger that. My father though, having been rejected by him so many times in my life, I can’t even take the risk. And it’s sad because he and I were more alike than my mom and I but he was so nasty to me growing up that emotionally I can’t take the risk and so I don’t and I haven’t really talked to him at all in over 8 years.

  14. my father ridiculed me a LOT when I was younger (and barely even chubby) about my weight. He would tell me constantly that I would never get a boyfriend, because men don’t want to be seen with big women; if by some miracle I did get a man, he would eventually leave me for someone else because men only want sex – but not with fat women.
    He is adamant that my partner MUST have an issue with my weight. We’ve been together for 11 years and he has never expressed a problem or hinted at in any way.

    My dad’s words still haunt me… I fear about meeting new people, in case they wont want to hang out with me or be seen with me – that maybe he was right.

  15. This really resonates with me, my whole family comes to my parents for Christmas, and since I am living with them while I focus on school that means I have to be here the whole time too. I find myself absolutely dreading the holiday, everyone always exclaims about how great it must be that we all get to be together, meanwhile the only thing I can think of is how can I get away.

    My family has issues, my weight being one of the biggest and because of it I was labeled as the black sheep, the perpetual failure no matter what else I do. They all manage to make enough side remarks covered in kindness and concern, or sit me down to have a talk with me about all the problems they see that I have to RECOVER from the happy family holiday. I relish the thought of once I am done with school moving far enough away that I can’t go home for the holidays, and don’t have to deal with them anymore. A big part of me thinks that honestly they won’t miss me, would be glad not to have to look at me, and would be perfectly fine with a monthly email from me.

    I know you are supposed to love your family, and that they are supposed to be there for you no matter what, I mean that’s what we have always been told right, and so I always feel awful feeling the way I do. But it is what it is.

  16. I can totally relate to this–My father nagged me about my weight all of my life, he would blame my mother for feeding me ice cream to help calm me down, which he said caused my weight gain. He told me that guys only like thick girls for sex–but nothing else. Friends recalled experiences where I would be eating something and he would grab it and shove it in his mouth. There were conversations that lasted for hours, which entailed talking about a book “thin for life” and the key to long term weight loss, how it wasn’t good enough to do crash diets, because they wouldn’t last and it wouldn’t cause long term thinness. He even told me that the starvation diet, was the healthiest and best to aspire to–which I still believe btw, but I can’t actually accomplish. One time I was in a fashion show in middle school, just some stupid thing, and he told me after how some guys said “wow, she would be pretty if she lost weight.” At family functions he still goes on about weight and tells me what to eat, my cousins insist on me downloading a calorie counter app (which I did used to obsessively count calories).

    I can’t go anywhere or eat anything, without a mention of weight, calories, hear girlfriends say “I’m trying to lose weight, and eat healthy”, seriously, I don’t think it is even possible for anyone to enjoy food anymore, without it becoming some crazy thing about health, weight and the quest to be slim.

  17. Reading these blogs has sent tears streaming steadily down my cheeks…I relate, oh boy don’t I relate to so much said. My mother has never accepted me as her equal.. i’m always the girl that has so much potential.. the one with the pretty face. Every time that I talk to her I get asked the same questions on what my plan for weightloss is. I’m 40, have been disabled for 2 years with Cauda Equina Syndrome ( a spinal cord injury i got from a prolapsed disc in my back) and she she still insists that I can excercise in a way I definitely can not. She was a nurse for 35 years, she’s in denial that I have the limitations that I do. Having these limitations has left me hopeless, and in the darkest years of my life. My mom continuously harping me about my weight doesn’t help, she thinks it’s helping me somehow. I have been overweight my whole life, and one of the constants in my life is my mothers harping, so go figure. My brother died 5 years ago from a drug overdose, and since then she’s convinced that i’m going to die before her as well, and is not shy to exclaim that. I also related to the father that want’s to be taken care of. I moved (stupidly) next to my ailing father 5 years ago when my brother died, to look after him for a while. 5 Years later, i’m still here, and my boyfriend who supports me is now fully supporting my father as well. It’s put a big strain on our relationship and I am growing ever so bitter about my situtation. I need to emotionally seperate myself from my parents, but, really not sure I know how without such a surplus of guilt that it’s not even beneficial to me. Anyways, I could write a novel right now, but I will end this blog with a thanks to everyone that shares of themselves on here.. it truely helped make me feel so much less alone today.

  18. My mother has always been fatshaming towards me. As a kid, she took me to weight watchers meetings with her, for weigh ins, etc. I was 12, not even yet grown into my body, and she was already telling me there was something wrong with it. As I grew up, I was always told “You would be so gorgeous if you just lost some weight!” Never without the caveat that as a fat girl, I couldn’t possibly be attractive enough. Never mind that my mother and I are now the same size, I still get it today.

    I mentioned that I went down a pants size and her only reply was “Amazing the things that happen when you don’t eat, huh?” I had to point out that I haven’t been actively trying to lose weight and in fact my eating and exercise habits have not changed in months. This woman is a nurse, and yet seems to think that starving myself would be a positive action.

  19. Pingback: Harriet Brown on Weight Bullying by Parents | Living ~400lbs

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