I am a writer. I have been for as long as I can remember. At age 7 I was keeping a diary and writing my deepest darkest secrets in it. Secrets like how I desperately wanted to lose weight. That’s a scary thought isn’t it? A seven year old wanting to lose weight but the truth is only 11% of girls feel comfortable enough describing themselves as beautiful.
It’s a big job, playing a part in a child’s life. No matter how small a part you have the ability to teach that child something either directly or indirectly. I remember as a young girl watching the women in my family obsess over their body and as you can see from my early diary entries I did too. I remember watching in fascination as my grandma measured out the spaghetti sauce for her dinner and explaining how she was swearing off all carbs because they we’re unhealthy. Soon enough I was following in her footsteps and the term thin and healthy became a crutch for one another.
As most of you are aware I struggle with an eating disorder. But I’m not saying I blame the women in my family. Instead I’m simply stating that we as adults need to be weary of what we can indirectly teach the children in our lives.
As a nanny I take this idea very seriously. I don’t swear around the kids and am very careful of what I say. I know one thing that bothers me is that my sister and mom will often tell the boys in our lives not to hit girls to which I quickly jump in a say, no, we don’t hit anybody. It annoys them but it’s true. A child hitting anyone is unnecessary.
And while I do tell the kids in my life how beautiful and handsome they are I mainly try to focus on other things. Like how well they read, speak, or act towards their siblings to show that there is more to life than looks.
If we are not careful there are many other things we can wrongfully teach children; swearing, racism, homophobia, bad body image. All of these can be passed down accidentally from generation to generation with our realization. Simply making a comment about how a black boy walking down the street looks like a thug as you drive pass him has the potential to teach the kids in your car that all African American boys are thugs. Especially if said in a negative way. Saying a same sex couple kissing is gross or wrong can teach a child to be intolerant.
If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past 5 years of being a nanny is that kids are much smarter than we give them credit for. When I had to stop being a nanny in order to go to treatment for my eating disorder, I couldn’t tell my kids why I was leaving. I just had to go. But my nanny kids where smart. I remember one of my kids, M asking if I was leaving because I was sick and didn’t eat. That was one of the most heart breaking moments of my life because I had tried so hard to hide it.
So we need to be weary of what we teach kids because they’re not as naïve or dumb as we think. What we really need to do is teach them love and acceptance both for themselves and others.