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But will they grow up to love their bodies?

standard March 11, 2009 5 responses

“I have a big fat belly!” C crows, walking around slapping her adorable round stomach.
“No you don’t, you have a sweet little belly.” I reply every time, wondering where she first heard someone talk about her body like that. Was it in jest? Was it lovingly? Was it a critique or a compliment? Her tone doesn’t clue me in. She’s delighted with her big fat belly, proud to show it off, entranced by the sound she can make by slapping her hands on it.

“Bellah! Bellah!” Little L cries as she runs into the room, shirt lifted to her chin, glorious roundness of her baby belly jutting out proudly in front of her. I react accordingly and dive at her, fingers at the ready for the tickling she’s begging for. She laughs hysterically and pleads for more “Bellah! Bellah!”

They’re in love with their bodies. They’re still at that age when being naked feels amazing, where they’re convinced that all you need to be beautiful is lots of pink and tons of sparkle. I’m in love with their bodies. I love the roundness, the plumpness, the dimples that show up in unexpected places like the crook of their elbows. I can’t get enough of their soft supple skin, their full cheeks, and yes, their full bellies.

How long do we have before those cries about bellies are no longer full of pride but rather full of despair? How long before they no longer preen in front of the mirror, but use it to isolate more flaws that they can bemoan?

My kids are young, very young, but I was a teenager once and I know that those days are looming. I remember feeling fat and awkward. I remember feeling like I’d never lose enough weight to look as pretty as I wanted to be. Today I look at pictures of myself back then and I’m blown away by how pretty I actually was. I want to reach back in time and hug that insecure girl and tell her she’s gorgeous inside and out, that anyone who can’t see that is blind and needs their head examined.

But I can’t. There’s no going back. There’s no helping the girl I was back then. Instead I’m focusing on the two little girls running around baring their bellies for all to admire. I’m telling them how gorgeous and smart they are. I’m praising their actions, their thoughts, and yes, their bodies, because it never hurts to know that someone thinks you’re beautiful.

I don’t know if that will be enough to spare them from a future eating disorder. I don’t know if I can help them love themselves no matter what. I’m doing the best I can. Aside from all the love I’m showing, I’m also teaching them to eat balanced meals and to enjoy sweets in moderation. Only time will tell if that’s enough.

This post was inspired by It Started With Pop-Tarts… by Lori Hanson as part of the Silicon Valley Moms Blog book club. Click here to read other posts inspired by Lori Hanson’s battle with bulimia.

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5 responses

  • Sounds like you’re doing everything right. Makes you wish they could just stay little forever though.

  • I’m so glad that you are such an insightful parent to realize how fleeting this moment may be. I hope they hold onto that pride. There’s a great book I just read called So Sexy So Soon. It has excellent practical advice about how parents can handle these moments.

  • It wasn’t too long ago, when my own kids were running around like toddlers do, and I was having similar thoughts as you do now.

    Time passed so quickly that a few years ago, we dropped that toddler daughter of ours, at the university.

    I felt that I gave my best to raise her to become a responsible citizen. However, even though I knew that the biggest gift that we can ever give our children is SELF-CONFIDENCE, ironically, I had my doubts whether I gave enough.

    She was so full of promise after her first year. But for whatever reason, it slowly faded away.

    What happened? I really don’t know. But I’m almost certain that there’s nothing much that I could have done. There are so many countless factors. But she’s still young, her life is just beginning.

    Even as I think through the valleys of my own career and my personal life, there was nothing in my upbringing that would point to my parents.

    In fact, during those moments of triumph, I remember being inspired by my parents’ support.

    But during those moments of disappointment, there was no one to look at, than the man in the mirror.

    Here’s what I know: I’ll never stop giving my children the gift of self-confidence… and then, I’ll just go with the flow.

    In the end, it’s their reservoir of self-confidence that will get them through whatever challenges they’ll face.

  • Great post, one of the reasons I’m glad to have boys, but doesn’t leave me off the hook

  • Though I’ve never been diagnosed with an eating disorder, I know I never see myself for what I really look like. No matter how slim I am, I always feel fat. I always look at the more slender woman and think, “Why can’t I look like her?”

    My husband calls it the voice in my head. Occasionally it’s voice on my blog…

    I don’t have daughters, but I have girl students, and I try to be so careful to talk about exercise (to seem happy about it) and to eat good foods when they’re around, but I also admit to liking sweets.

    We are so consumed with our bodies…when they really are just a shell.

    ellie in IL

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