Fear is a very real part of parenting. In the beginning, we track every single milestone, from rolling over to crawling and walking. There is certainly some fear during that stage, but once we know that our child has met all physical milestones, a whole new, and much more confusing stage sets in.
Will my child grow up to be a good person? Will my child always yell at other people when she gets angry? Will my child do all right in school? Will my child get a good job? Am I a good parent? Am I failing her?
The fear we live with every single day, especially during puberty, can range from mild discomfort to outright terror.
And when a child is diagnosed with an eating disorder, it gets even harder. The simple fact is that it can be really, really annoying to live with someone you love who has an eating disorder. It can easily drive you up the freaking wall.
Please eat this. Are you hungry? I know you aren’t hungry, but you need to eat anyway because we’re trying to help you heal. Remember – we’re a team!
These are the types of statements that we know we need to say in a calm, loving manner. Day in and day out. And we try. We really do.
But meanwhile, our child struggles to live with a voice inside of his or her head that tells him or her not to eat. Or to eat too much. Or to binge and purge. We still have to calmly and consistently be the healing parent, doing our best to remain above our anger and frustration. Because why won’t you just eat for god’s sake?!?!?!
And then there are the lies. When our children have eating disorders, their disorder convinces them to lie to keep the disorder alive.
I already ate. I’m just not hungry. I’ll eat later.
And we just never know – is this the truth, or is it the truth as told by the eating disorder?
It’s very disconcerting. Actually, it’s really freaking irritating!
But we still need to show up and give our children our best selves every day. Day in and day out. With a nasty eating disorder that forces us to our knees, praying for the day that we don’t have to beg our children to behave differently than the eating disorder tells them to.
This post isn’t about advice. It’s just about normalizing the fact that parenting really sucks sometimes. It is terrifying to raise any child in today’s world, and having an eating disorder just raises the stakes.
Will my child ever get better? Will she die from this? Why is she doing this? Is it my fault? Why isn’t she getting better? What else can I do?
Parents are on the front line of care for eating disorders, but often we just want to curl up in a bunker and wait until it’s all over.
It’s really, really freaking hard.
It’s also totally possible.
Hang in there, warrior!
Ginny Jones is the editor of More-Love.org. She writes about parenting, body image, disordered eating, and eating disorders. Ginny is also a Parent Coach who helps parents handle their kids’ food and body issues.