Parenting can be difficult at the best of times. A divorce complicates things from there. Robert and I never saw eye to eye on raising kids – our upbringings were just too different. I do realize that I’m biased, but I feel like I take the whole child approach. Robert sees everything in sharp tones of black and white.
Again, from my biased view, I have bent over backward to try to compromise with him. If I didn’t agree with him, and I felt it wouldn’t scar the kids, I would back off and tell the kids they needed to work things out with their Dad. I didn’t want the kids to be able to play us one against the other. This was not a 2-way street however. If he disagreed with me, he was right. It was that simple for him. It was very difficult to deal with – and I’m pretty easy to get along with most days!!
Now that the divorce is over, Robert and I get along most of the time. But there are two hot button issues dealing with the kids that still cause problems. One of these issues deals with the weight of the kids. Robert’s family was a skinny lot growing up – that is his paradigm. So in his mind, our kids should be slender. And to be clear, I want the kids to be in good health, be at a healthy weight and eat right. For their sake, I want them to be fit. Both Kaileigh and Keegan are now taller than me (and not just barely – there is an obvious difference!). Kaileigh is 13, Keegan is 12; Kaileigh wears a size 11 shoe, Keegan is in a 13.5 to 14 size shoe. They both weigh more than they should. At 9, Lucy has not hit puberty and she is at a good weight. She does wear a ladies size 7 shoe – I hate to leave out a shoe size!!
Robert sends me emails about childhood obesity, the effect of excess weight on relationships in childhood, healthy eating choices for your teen, etc. He is not subtle about his feelings on their weights. He has not said anything to Kaileigh directly as far as I know and he takes pride in not ever having told Keegan that he is fat. But it is my contention to him that he tells them that they are fat every time they are with him. Oh not in so many words but when he asks Keegan how much he weighs and tells him that if he is under a certain weight that he can have desert, Keegan gets the message. When he tells him that he can’t have breakfast because he didn’t exercise the previous day, Keegan gets the message. When they have lettuce and salted cucumbers for dinner, the kids hear him loud and clear.
Robert wasn’t always so ‘tactful’ about weight. When I met him, I wore a size 8 to 10. After a few weeks of dating, he told me I would be perfect if I lost 20 pounds. I started out slowly but then it became a mission – I lost 20 pounds. I did even better – I lost 30 pounds. Now I figured I was perfect. But then he told me that it was a shame that I wasn’t more toned. Eventually, I was working out twice a day to become more perfect. I was anxious when I wasn’t working out – I limited what I allowed myself to eat. I recognize it now for what it was – an obsession and an eating disorder. Luckily it never got out of total control but it remained an obsession for years. Not until I got pregnant with Kaileigh, did I allow myself to gain weight. But despite my efforts, I was not perfect enough. Robert could always see room for improvement in me.
Now it isn’t me he wants to improve, it is our kids. I do believe that Robert thinks he is doing what is best for the kids. But what he doesn’t see is the aftermath of what he has done. It hit me hard the other day when I asked Lucy why she didn’t go to bed earlier and she said that she had to exercise. She was up until 3:00 in the morning jumping rope and hula hooping. She remembers fondly the days when she could wear a bikini – the days before she became fat. The older kids want to eat even if they are going to their Dad’s for dinner. If I don’t intercede, I honestly believe that we will be dealing with eating disorders across the board.
I firmly believe it is important to pick your battles in life. If you are going to fight for something, pick battles big enough to matter. This is one case in which I may need to hunker down for the long haul……