I'm not asking for your sons and daughters to simply listen, I'm asking you to make them listen -- and live.
Our children are growing up in a world where, by the time they turn age 7, they run the risk of falling into a perpetual trap of questioning, "Am I good enough?"
You see, they will grow up believing the false narrative society has forced upon us, and will pass onto them the notion that: if our girls aren't "pretty enough," "don't have the "right clothes" or play with certain colors, they are insufficient. Our boys will learn that if they don't play with GI Joes they lack "what it takes," and if they aren't beating someone up on the playground they aren't "man enough." And if some of those boys and girls don't identify with pink or blue they simply shouldn't bother. When this happens to our youth, what makes us believe that any other lie they hear will be any less difficult to push away?
I am begging, pleading and yes, challenging parents, siblings, family members and friends to instill hope -- and to pass it on.
Most of the time, God gives the majority of us one chance at life, one opportunity to make a difference or a mere one time around the sun. Now, He has allowed me three (opportunities), and I am not about to allow a little white lie, an environmental trigger, a genetic predisposition or a lack of understanding steal the life of another.
A heart attack isn't nearly as painful as watching someone else fall victim to the same disease you suffered with, and lose. An upwards of 30 percent of those struggling with disordered eating will eventually develop a diagnosable eating disorder.
Too many of us do not take into account the conversations we have at a friend's house, a family gathering or a "simple" meal with acquaintances. "I can't believe how much he/she has gained/lost," I've been working so hard on losing this week," "do you see the way they act/dress/talk/walk/eat?"
I thought gatherings were supposed to be an enjoyable experience, taking in the simple company of others and instead, the conversation swirls with criticism and pointed disgust.
We often gesture to one another about utilizing "earmuffs" for our boys and girls in anticipation of a dirty joke or "adult" conversation. Unfortunately, we forget that those earmuffs protecting our kids from "bad words" are often necessary for the simplist of talking points and subjects we find entertaining or harmless. They aren't entertaining, and they certainly aren't harmless. They are dangerous, and those who are under the influence of such language silently soak it all up.
Anorexia and eating disorders have the highest mortality of any other mental illness. It is a common assumption that eating disorders are a choice, a phase, something you can choose to get over, wrap up, and move on from. Well, remember the 30 percent who struggle with disordered eating? Add that number to those already struggling (up to 24 million in the United States) and we are talking about millions of individuals who will probably tell you their story differently than a "simple choice."
As an educator, I have seen the ramifications of what goes on at school (from a single bully to an educators off-the-wall remark). I also remember those same conditions as a little boy, too. "Get up you're fine, go play with the boys instead of the girls, aren't you man enough? What are you, a faggot? Oh, Troy, it's so much easier if you just tried harder. You know, everyone else in the class understands this," or receiving a principal's interrogation (for humorous purposes) on what my home life is like. The point? I remember.
Look, I am not blaming one parent, one teacher, a single comment, or the fact that kids are not 100-percent protected from the dangers of a very different society we face today. That simply is not realistic. However, the fact is that things are different today than they were 50 years ago, and we have to be diligent in the way we extend messages to our youth, and what impact that may have -- whether we see the ramifications right away or not.
The National Eating Disorder's Associations (NEDA) "NEDAwareness Week" is February 24 through 28, 2014.