View Full Version : parent/child relationships

10-29-2001, 05:00 PM
There's been some discussion on the A/B Recovery board about parents who hold their kids back from growing up. This has gotten me thinking about my own growing up and how my relationship with my parents affected me.

Do you think your ED has to do with how your parents reacted to you becoming an adult (or even just having an adult body if you are still a teen)?

I was a somewhat early bloomer, physically. At the time I was developing, my mother had just lost a breast to cancer. Her period stopped because of the chemotherapy and radition. Looking back, I think she was struggling with her own femininity, and might have been jealous of me gaining what she was losing. We had always argued, but it got much worse.

This definitely had an effect on my body image. I HATED having a woman's body because it reminded me too much of my mother. I was afraid that having breasts meant that I would also get cancer. And I just didn't want to be like her.

It sounds cold to say I'm better off that she died when I was twelve. But I honestly think my ED would have been MUCH worse if we'd had to continue living together. I had already started to overeat to spite her (she wanted me to lose weight), which later led to my purging.

My dad, on the other hand, has been wonderful in helping me grow up. There were a lot of times I wanted to stay daddy's little girl. But he pushed me to be independant and make my own decisions.

Dad doesn't believe in curfews or movie ratings or keeping track of every place his kids went. He didn't mind that many of my friends were several years older than me. I didn't have anything to rebel against, and I appreciated his trust in me. I didn't have sex as a teen or do drugs like my friends with overprotective parents did. The very few times Dad said "no" to something I wanted to do, I knew he had good reasons and I didn't do it.

:dragon Millie

10-29-2001, 05:26 PM
:hugon Millie :hugoff
This is an interesting question, and one I have often thought about. :idea
Just the other day my mum said, "I don't like being called a woman, I prefer to be called a 'girl'". I found this significant, particularly in the context of all the women in our family having very young sounding voices. This is often commented on.
My mum also said not so long ago, "when I look in the mirror I hate what I see." I remember as a child watching my mother look at herself in the mirror, calling herself disgusting and fat as she grabbed onto her flesh. I started to mirror her I think, see myself as fat too. I compared myself unfavourably with my sisters who were younger and thinner. I also thought this meant my mum would like them better. If she didn't like her fat she wouldn't like mine.
It is surprising that I didn't develop my ED earlier really. I was always guilty around food, but didn't actually develop a full blown ED until after university. That was when I was really faced with having to grow up and not wanting to.
I am not sure about how my dad affected me, but I often feel a lot of shame when I think of him and I am not sure what this is about. I have done a lot of work re. me and my mum in therapy. Consequently I have a much better and more compassionate relationship with her these days. Haven't done much around my dad.
Thanks for the post. I'm interested to see what other replies you get.

10-29-2001, 07:34 PM

Wow. Sounds like you two have had some great insights.

This thread was a great idea. I think we should talk about family more on SF... through my therapy I realized that my family was a lot less "perfect" than it seemed to be, and that it factored into my personality more than I initially thought.

In fact, when I first went into therapy, I remember almost guarding my parents from my therapist. It was really funny now that I look back on it. But I was so intent on making sure they were not blamed for the ED.

I'm an oldest child. I'm the experiment as far as puberty goes. :grin I don't believe I had a sex talk. In third grade my church had professionals come and do a little program class thing for the preteens (boys and girls together, I might add!) called "Created By God," in which they showed us diagrams of the sexual anatomy of men and women, how to make a baby, etc. Then they gave us a book that had pictures of naked boys and girls and talked more about sex- a little more in-depth than the class itself. My parents said I could ask questions on it anytime and left it at that. But I was too embarrassed to ask questions, and didn't even really care at that time, so I just put the book on my shelf and never touched it for about three years or so.

I know my middle brother got a sex talk; I remember overhearing my mom on the phone telling one of her friends that my dad was taking my brother out biking and giving him "the Boy Scout Talk," and something from the tone of her voice told me that it had nothing to do with tying knots (except maybe proverbally... lol!:muhaha).

I was a late bloomer, so by the time I was curious about sex I already had heard most things about it at slumber parties, so I never really had to ask my parents.

I know I was afraid to grow up myself, however, I don't know if my parents were necessarily afraid of my growing up. So as far as the puberty issue goes, I don't think that it led to my eating disorder as much as other family factors did. But that's another post.

10-30-2001, 01:45 AM
My dad has played a big role in my life since I was a babe. He raised my sister and I since I was nine and I have an identity crisis. I don't like having breast and I hope to gain muscle one of these days! I know I am female and I like being female but there are masculine qualities that I crave. I know my parents have influenced me with my eating. Not only my parents influenced me though. Many, many things influenced me.

10-30-2001, 01:51 AM
Something good that happened to me today:

I got to spend time with my sister, see her beautiful baby and watch how my father looked at him with so much love and happiness!!!!

I went to college again today!

10-30-2001, 10:09 AM
GReat idea for a topic, especialy considering how large a role family dynamics play in ED's. I know my family played a big role in the development of my anorexia. My father was emotionally absent, but also abusive. My mother was VERY controlling and overprotective, wanting to keep me her little girl forever. And I lost count of how many times I heard her complain about her own weight. Being an only child, I felt a decent sized burden. Anyway, there was serious conflict when I began showing signs of maturing and wanting independence, so I, wanting to avoid conflict, sort of gave it up.

BUT, it has really made me examine my own parenting skills, and for that I am very, VERY grateful. I am encouraging my kids, even though there's not near puberty yet, to do things for themselves, and to think for themselves. You know, be their own person, whomever that may be. I hope it will help them. I know I'm not going to be perfect (especially since wanteing to be perfect helped suck me into anorexia in the first place :sly), but I am going to use what I've learned.

Thanks for this thread. It's a good one. It's making me think.

much love,

11-01-2001, 10:56 AM
I realize how my parents/family contributed to my low self-esteem, but not necessarily my ED...well actually, no, I take that back...my dad is overweight and my mother is average-weight, I guess; her body is in good condition for having had six children and she is proud of that...but she was/is constantly complaining about my dad's weight problem...she even made him sleep in the basement for a year because she couldn't stand to sleep in the same bed as someone who is overweight and snores...my two younger brothers picked up on it and started ridiculing me and our three younger sisters, and we were all at a normal body weight...then I hit puberty and inherited my mothers hips and lower body and that was the first things my brothers made fun of...then they turned to my one sister, who is now a little bigger than me and one of my other sisters who is built like my dad...and my brothers are both thin and muscular...I believe all of that ridicule helped in the development of my eating disorder and that makes me scared that my sisters may develop an ED...I wouldn't wish this on anyone...guess I'm getting off topic here...my fam is just all messed up...lol

11-02-2001, 02:02 PM

This is a VERY interesting topic and just thinking about my parents in this (as well as other areas of my life and our relationship), i see the MULTIPLE mixed messages they sent (and continue to send).
i was the only girl and the youngest child - have three older brothers. rather than coddling me, i think my parents wanted to treat everyone the same, so no special treatment because i was a girl. COUGH - in theory. That meant that they weren’t ‘easy’ on me and I did a lot of the same activities as my brothers – we played football in the front yard, if they decided to hit me, my parents figured that we would work it out.
on the other hand, my parents were/are very traditional and really discouraged dating and certainly didn’t do much discourse about sex. They emphasized that it was something one should ‘wait for’, but never really explained why and whatnot. I admit quite frankly that I was pretty scared of sex and probably of my sexuality; the idea of getting pregnant terrified me. NOT that it was ever an issue in high school.
Oh, but I digress. Back to the ‘rents and how they influenced me… sort of always treated me half like a boy, half like a girl (no wonder I question my sexuality!). And half like a grown-up, half like a child.
I think the last item was and still is the hardest piece – or most ambivalent part of the relationship. On the one hand, even when I was little, they expected me to be a little adult. I always got along well with people older than I, was not a ‘demanding’ child, could entertain myself without ever asking anything of another person. And although they were really strict when I lived at home, they totally encouraged and supported any experiences away – in high school, I ended up spending weeks and weeks away from them in summers (once in england, another time in spain) and then went to boarding school.
To this day, they send weird messages. On the one hand, I think they would love for me to get married and be super traditional; yet they also think that I should have some high-powered job. Neither of which really fits my personality or my personal goals.
Hmm… I guess, the bottom line with this, is that they don’t understand me, we don’t have a truly honest relationship. I think the lack of an open relationship certainly contributed to my eating disorder and probably does affect how I relate to people and to a degree my perception about sexuality and sex.
As to how their views tie body size/type whatever and sexuality… I’m not sure. That’s also really contorted. Again, they encouraged me to be independent, but still expect/ed me to be ‘ladylike’, a bit demure, but still aggressive and able to survive in a man’s world, play with the boys, smoke cigars and tell dirty jokes. They definitely have their own hang-ups with body size and EVERYONE in the nuclear family has issues and sees ‘thin’ as ‘better’.
Both parents commented on my appearance which always embarassed me, one way or another. Now, I think it just incenses me. Last time I was home, my father said that I needed to ‘work’ on my arms. I think it’s just ignorance on his part, but I did let him know that such comments are not appropriate. But they still sting a bit.

Hmm… seems I’ve written a book. EEK!

11-05-2001, 01:12 AM
Originally posted by Happyglow

In fact, when I first went into therapy, I remember almost guarding my parents from my therapist. It was really funny now that I look back on it. But I was so intent on making sure they were not blamed for the ED.

woah there, I definitey do that, and i'm not sure how to stop. it seems unfair to place any blame (however small) on them because they're both amazing people and are paying for the whole therapy thing to begin with. sigh.

I'll come back to the original question later, as it too is quite interesting.

11-22-2001, 03:13 AM
I want to share something I learned recently which was interesting to me, but also sad. I asked my mom about her relationship with her mom. She told me that Grandma confided into my mom a lot, but not mutally. My mom would not share with Grandma. My mom believes my Grandma would confide in only hefself, which she felt was a huge responsibilty. She told me that she didn't believe she had anyone she could share her dealings with.

Funny I didn't ask before. I learned from my mom that it's not natural to ask others for help. Luckily, that lesson is not the end-all.

I was lucky mom would ask me questions and care what I was going through. It was invasive, but that is a contrast from what she learned.

I learned from my mom the notion of being responsible for her needs. A current area for growth. I was sad to realize that pattern was carried down.

I am so uncomfortable "growing up" and not needing my parents in the same way. Guilt. I mean, I'm the baby, the "cute" one:reallymad. The polite sweetie pie. "Oh give me a hug honey."

And it doesn't work. I am more than obediant. Rules haven't helped me find myself. I'm glad if my family felt loved and respected by me in the past, but it isn't working taking on their styles and images and wants. For some time I've felt the obligation to not scare them by taking on certain styles, to not disagree, to let them do the talking, to say whatever seems nice, to not do stuff unless they thought is was a good idea.

Here's to strength and letting go

Be well,

11-23-2001, 05:26 AM
Looking back on various things that may have contributed to my ed, I think a big factor was always hearing, "She's such a big girl!" Now I know it wasn't meant to be a criticism, but for some reason, I took it as a negative. Until ****th grade, I was always at the tall end of the spectrum and my mom would make the various, "She's big for her age", comments. Sounds silly that it would bother me, but it did. I think that being taller and looking older than my age made people a lot less tolerant of typical childhood behaviors - that because I looked older I was somehow expected to act older.

Now my sister has always been petite and thus had been babied a lot more. Treated more delicate, so to speak. I always felt that she was given a lot more latitude to be child like and just plain good old-fashioned goofy than I was. Maybe it was because she was the baby, but in my mind it was because she was small and not "a big girl" like I was.

Now that I am a mother of two girls, I am VERY careful to avoid making comments based on anything physical. My biggest fear is that my girls will battle the self loathing that I have always felt.

Parents need to be careful of those seemingly innocent comments that can stay with a person for life. I know my mom and other adults in my life never meant their assessments in a negative way, but that's what I came out of my childhood with. Being "big boned", "tall", or "big girl" were undesirable and somehow less attractive.

11-23-2001, 02:03 PM
:hugon :bowl :hugoff

I've been away for awhile, :kick I'm doing much better than I was when I first found the :bowl ! :bounce

Alice Rabbit wrote:

Now that I am a mother of two girls, I am VERY careful to avoid making comments based on anything physical. My biggest fear is that my girls will battle the self loathing that I have always felt.

Parents need to be careful of those seemingly innocent comments that can stay with a person for life. I know my mom and other adults in my life never meant their assessments in a negative way, but that's what I came out of my childhood with. Being "big boned", "tall", or "big girl" were undesirable and somehow less attractive.


Excellent point! :yay

I was the skinny kid in the family. I grew up with a bunch of women who were never satisfied with their body, and were very vocal about it. :sad From a very early age, I started thinking, "Gee, I'd better preserve my skinniness, for all the girls out there who simply can't be skinny!" And yes, I thought being really skinny made me special. :sad
To this day, the comments my Mom makes about her weight and body image drive me up the wall. :reallymad I even tried dropping a hint to her once when I said, "It was hard growing up around a lot of women who obsessed over their weight." Her reply, "Oh, everyone goes through that." :reallymad She just doesn't get it! :reallymad
It's gotten to the point where it's really hard for me to even be around my mother anymore, even though my darkest days of ED are behind me. Part of me is tempted to tell her I'm recovered, but in my heart I know it's too soon for ME to deal with telling her. And when I do tell her, I'll say, "I knew you wouldn't be able to handle it like a rational adult, so I kept it from you to make MY life and MY recovery easier, because you never took the time to really have me checked out for an ED, even though I went to counseling when I was younger." :sarcasm (Okay, can you tell I have some unresolved issues with her? :winky )
On the other hand, my Dad's been pretty good in this. He's been willing to listen, encourage me, and help me keep my ED from my Mom. I know that's probably not easy for him to do, and I :love him dearly for it. I think we're finally going to be able to have a good relationship, which is something I've always wanted.

Wow. That felt good to write. :happy


11-23-2001, 04:25 PM

I'm so glad to hear that you've managed to put some distance between your childhood and your adulthood and get some healthy perspective. I hope that you realize how much you've been able to accomplish and how healthy your outlook on life is now. I think it's a HUGE achievement when we are finally able to not let other people's issues affect our outlook on life and not allow their shortcomings to become our own. Good for you for loving yourself enough to shed the emotional baggage. I'm proud of you and you should be too.

Keep up the great work!

11-23-2001, 10:38 PM
:hugon AliceRabbit :hugoff

Thanks! :happy

I'm still working on this. In fact, I'm spending time with my folks tomorrow, and I know it's going to be hard. :ugh At least my hubby will be with me when we eat. :happy

I still have a lot of :mad feelings when it comes to my Mom. She just doesn't *get* me most of the time, so it's hard for me to deal with her without going nuts. :sad She just doesn't realize that children pick up on what their parents *do* rather than the things they say. You can't tell your kid not to lie and then make them lie when it suits your purpose (like getting in cheaper at the movies). :ugh :cry

Hubby and I want to move, and we're looking at going to the mountains. As much as we both :love LA, the things we hate about it are annoying us more and more. Not to mention the air is terrible! :sad
Every time I tell my folks we're looking at houses that are far away ('cause they're MUCH cheaper than staying put!), my Mom whines and tells me about moving somewhere closer to her. AS IF! Hubby and I want land and a place to raise lots of :kitty :kitty !!

So yep, I've come a long way this year, but I've still got some ways to go. :winky


11-27-2001, 03:12 AM
Good post! I was actually talking about this with someone the other day. How exhausting and frustrating it is to live in the shadow of someone who is SO successful that you know that no matter what you do you'll never be good enough, and if he puts you down, you may rebel but secretly you figure he may be right because all you have to do is compare your life to his and you see which of you is the failure. And it's not a pretty picture.

Getting out of our parents shadow to live, and cast our own shadow is very important. Sometimes the only way to do that is get the fuck out of dodge. Just hop in the car and go anywhere...anywhere that you'll be known for who you are and not who your parents are. :ugh I'm happy for my parents because they're both successful and good at what they do but it feels awful to constantly feel that I'm being compared and judged and don't measure up and only being known as 'so-and-so's' daughter rather than my own person. I want to live, and on my own terms, so I've decided I need to get busy doing that.

12-01-2001, 07:08 PM
:hugon Millie :hugoff

I don't want to blame anyone but I think my parents "helped me"with my e.d I wa sbotn with something in my heart, not serious, but I guess because of that my mom, tryed to protect me a lot, because she was afraid that something would happen to me. My dad for another side, didn't get close to me!!
ANd now that I am trying to act as an adult, it being hard of getting up on my own feet.
I didn't like my body eighter because it is just like my mom's body and for some reason I don't want to be like her so I guess I turned to e.d as a way of being differemt!!

12-01-2001, 08:35 PM
Wow what a topic!
:hugon :bowl :hugoff

yeah my family influanced me alot

I can never rember my parents getting along, and my logic (I was young but this little though always stuck with me) If they can't love the person they choose to be with how can they love this darn kid (me) thay they got stuck with?

My dad tried to make us feel loved and cared about, but he would often stay out very late to avoid my mom

Mom was simply horrid to live with. We always fought. She never liked the idea that I wanted to go out with my friends. She never had trouble letting my brother go out though. I often felt like there must be SOMETHING wrong with being a woman because I wasn't allowed to do jack sheet and my brother was (and he was also three years younger than I).

Which led to major rebellion on my part!

Once I got the hell outta dodge life slowly got easier!

That still doesn't mean that I enjoy this woman's body

I was also an early bloomer! I was one fo the first go get my period and I rember in eigth grade being asked if I stuffed because I was (and am) quite... gifted... in that area. I never stuffed, never had a reason! I was in B cups before most girls in my class were out of training bras! Ugh! Maybe if I had been part of the "in" crowd it would have been ok, but I wasn't about to conform to their idea, so life was miserable!

kat eyes
12-01-2001, 10:15 PM
:dragon :hugon Millie :hugoff :dragon

Great topic!
I think my mom has been one of the main causes I developed an ed. When I was a little girl she would always tell me how thin she was when she was younger and would always be aware of other peoples weight.

Allison LHF
12-02-2001, 12:51 AM
interesting topic.

My parents held me back from growing up so much. I wasn't allowed to go anywhere or stay out late, or be left alone or anything as much as my friends. I was twenty years old and still had a curfew (of midnight!) I wasn't allowed in the 'bad parts of town' at night (and if you saw my town you'd laugh for sure since there are no REAL "bad parts"!)
This led to some rebellion on my part, but it also led to a lot of fear, fear of going against, fear of growing up... i wanted to stay little and protected forever, and sometimes i think i STILL do...

:bounce Allison :bounce

12-02-2001, 11:38 PM
what an interesting topic! my parents definitely played a role in the development of my ED. i remember when i was a little kid wanting to drink slimfast because we had so much of it around the house. my mom constantly complained about being fat and she EVERY fat enemy in the world (several kinds of pills, thigh cream, diet books, abtronic... everything.) i was so afraid :scared of being fat. i remember thinking i was fat when i was ten and stopped eating red meat. my dad always said the whole family was getting fat and of course i believed it. hmm oh and even though im an only child, i always felt neglected b/c my parents always worked and never played board games with me :sad oh well. ok thats my story. :grin