In a perfect world, my daughters would only know joy and experience mild pain and disappointment. This is not a perfect world and I know there is not much I can truly control over the course of their lives, especially as they grow more independent every day. One thing I would like to impact positively and what I am scared of happening is unwillingly creating negative body image issues.
My approach to body image and weight for my girls is to live by example. I have put my body through A LOT over the past 34 years. I was on a diet in elementary school, anorexic in middle school, plump through early adulthood, then finally found my balance in my late 20s to then get pregnant, breastfeed, get pregnant with twins, deliver the twins at full term, breastfeed two babies at once, and then lose the weight again. I have since gained some weight, but my body has done SO much for me. I am just in awe of all it has endured and accomplished (especially creating two people at once)! I do not have a bad body image; in fact I want to respect and love myself more for all my physical form has done for me.
As a mother, I am scared of somehow inserting a kernel of negativity in my girls’ minds when it comes to their own body image.
They are a clean slate right now. They know nothing of body image (to my knowledge) and sexuality. They look at their round little bellies with glee as we play a game where we pretend to “eat their tummies” (by giving raspberries) while they run around the house with their shirts off. As far as I’m concerned, they are absolutely perfect and I want them to see themselves as perfect too. How do I help them hold on to that?
My oldest daughter basically has my face, except she has her father’s eyebrows. She was born with them straight out of the womb and I LOVE them! Her eyebrows are super soft and distinct. My ethnicity is Eastern European (Russian, Polish and Israeli), so eyebrow hair removal is just a fact of life for me, but I do not look forward to the day my oldest asks to wax, thread, or pluck her eyebrows too. I love her fuzzy face caterpillar eyebrows – please don’t change them! I will never intentionally say anything negative about their bodies, but I’m afraid a random comment made by someone in their lives will set off a chain reaction of body image doubt and shame which I, their mother, will not be able to stop no matter how much I love every square inch of them.
Why I’m bringing this up now. The other day, my adorably curly-haired 4 year was brushing her teeth before bed and while looking in the mirror touched her hair and face and told me she wishes she had white hair and eyebrows like her baby sisters and Elsa from Frozen. Oy. Until now, I was worried about her wanting straight hair one day (because you always want what you cannot have and she has the curliest hair possible). I was thrown for a loop when she started talking about wanting to change her hair. I did not see it coming and it was a good opportunity to talk about the things she loves about her hair (the curls) and how she can do anything she wants when she’s a grown-up (like color her hair if she chooses).
No matter what I do, I will not be able to shield my girls from every sadness and disappointment. I guess the best thing to do is create a really solid foundation for them to rely upon and lead by example. I love how they use their legs to bounce around the house, run up and down hallways and climb the stairs. I love how their little hands hold and shove food into their darling little mouths and their slippery bodies splash in the bathtub, and fine curls fall over their eyes. Their little toes are so yummy, I want to nibble them all the time (and I take advantage during every diaper change). They know how much I adore their bodies, I hope they see this and it rubs off on them too.
Ultimate body love: is it too much to expect?