In this journey of raising my daughter while I’m recovering from an eating disorder, I have learned many lessons. Again, I am no expert on all teenagers, heck I wouldn’t call me an expert on my own teenagers, but these are three lessons that seem to be key in our life.
The first being balance. I’ve talked about balance before, and I find it important in my recovering from anorexia, in my relationship with my daughter, and in life. Balance is very easy to talk about, not so easy to implement in our lives. Balance for me is combining good nutrition with exercise, positive self-talk over the negative, and giving myself grace for the times I may fall out of balance in these areas. In my relationship with my daughter, balance is keeping my worry in check, my communication lines open, and knowing when to listen and when to give advice.
My conversations with my daughter used to get heated fast when I was trying to give advice when she wasn’t asking for it or trying to turn each situation into a “teachable moment”. Then it dawned on me, there are times she didn’t want advice, but rather that listening ear when she just needed to really vent. So I started asking my daughter, “is this something you want advice on or just a listening ear?” The change was amazing for both us, I stopped feeling like I had to fix it all for her, and she started opening up more knowing I wasn’t going to say “what you should do…” This allowed us to be able to communicate more freely and has even helped with my worry about her developing an eating disorder because I feel we have an honest relationship, which makes spotting trouble a bit easier.
Balance has also played a crucial role in the sharing of my journey with her. I started talking to her at a young age about positive body image and this lead into us talking about my eating disorder as she got older. Going with my daughters age and development as a guideline to sharing about my journey helped to not share too much, too fast. I didn’t want her to know more than she needed to and I focused more on positive body image, rather than the ins and outs of anorexia. Balance in these two areas has helped my relationship with my daughter and allowed for some great conversations.
The second lesson I’ve learned has not only come from parenting but from my work as a youth minister. In my work, I stress with other adults that it takes up to 5 other positive faithful adults in a child’s life, not counting their parents, to help solidify a faith in a child. Same concept here, it takes a village to raise children. The more loving adults we can have around our children to help support and encourage them, the better. I am blessed with great friends who walk alongside my daughter to help encourage her and give her a noneating disorder point of view. Because let’s face it, I see things differently because of my eating disorder, so having women around my daughter who can give her a different positive perspective can’t hurt!!
The third lesson I have learned is you need to have a sense of humor about raising children in general. If I didn’t laugh or find reasons to laugh, I just might truly go crazy. Raising teenagers is hard, I have two, soon to be three teenagers, in my home and if it wasn’t for my husband and my sense of humor, I don’t think we would make it.
Teenagers, both male and female, have mood swings, bad days, and are totally selfish! They can be wonderful and awful in just a matter of minutes.
One minute you are laughing with them, the next they are crying because you were laughing at them. If you can’t find the humor in mood swings, or in the drama that is not having the right shoes to wear, you will go crazy. And let’s face it, there is only so much you can take seriously out of the mouths of our teenagers. I remember when my daughter was sick with pneumonia, she was sent home with strong antibiotic and cough medicine and told to drink plenty of water. I was trying to push water on her and she said to me that water made her more dehydrated. Umm what?? She claims she was drugged out even though she had only an antibiotic at the time. Laughing about that comment helped me to relieve stress and lifted my spirits on that stressful day. Yes, laughter with teenagers is key to parental survival. Plus, it is good for filing away all the dumb things teenagers do so we can save them and share them with our grandkids!
Raising my daughter while recovering from an eating disorder may not have been the path I would have chosen, but it is the journey I am on.
These three key lessons, striving for balance, having a village to help and finding humor, have helped me along this journey. I am not perfect at it, and I am still learning every day what it means, but I am hopeful that by sharing my story it will help someone else. We are not in recovery alone, we are all warriors, and I pray we continue to bless one another and share more about what it is to live while recovering from eating disorders.