I appreciate what the author of this article is trying to get across – don’t raise your daughter to be self conscious about her body. Tell her she’s strong. Let her know you run to be healthy. Inform her you do squats to climb mountains. Educate her to eat well to live a long time.
I don’t disagree, and it certainly doesn’t hurt to remind us of how important this is for our daughters to hear.
But damn if I don’t say those things over and over again to Maria yet she still looks at herself in the mirror at times and says “I’m too big.”
I stand behind her when I hear that and make her look at herself. “Keep looking,” I tell her. I look in the mirror with her. I talk about how strong she is. How she can pick me up because of those muscular legs. How her arms are able to carry loads of groceries in the house. How her booty pushes down on those bike pedals and makes her ride like the wind around town.
She smiles. She nods her head and hugs me. And I hope those affirmations strike deep into her soul and remain.
The other morning I walked into her room and noticed three barbies lying on the floor. One was naked with her perky boobs standing straight up in salute. Another had on a party dress up to her mid-thigh; her tiny legs the circumference of pencils. Another had on a bikini with a stomach that was not only flat but actually concave into her body like a tiny dip in the road.
Hmmm, I wonder where she finds evidence to make her feel “big.”
My mom got me the Dusty doll when I was Ri’s age. She had dull brown hair cut to her shoulders, size AA breasts, if that, hidden under a t-shirt, a pair of shorts and gym shoes. Yea, that explains a lot about me today. That Dusty doll made a lasting impression on me through my love of sports and hard labor and lifting weights and running shorts and gym shoes (put me near pairs of heels and nothing happens but put me near pairs of running shoes, and I salivate!)).
Ri has little rolls on her tummy. I catch her doing what I did as a young girl. Pinching the rolls with her two fingers as she lies in bed staring up at the ceiling. What’s she thinking? I remember feeling “if only I could get rid of these, I’d be as pretty as —-.” I grew up with MTV and with Charlie’s Angels. Madonna. Christie Brinkley. I remember wishing – with my like flat-chested girlfriend – of having big boobs and a tiny waist like the actresses on tv. Ri is growing up with Selena Gomez, Christina Aguilera, and tv shows with perky girls in fashionable clothes. Nothing has really changed.
I’m so thankful for the women that raised me. Through them, I saw that there were other qualities about a girl that mattered. I watched full-bodied women dance in flowing dresses without a care; I listened to women of all shapes laugh together at the dining room table; I witnessed intellect and debate shoot from the mouths of women in my home and in my school. These women weren’t hung up on their dress size – they were hung up on life and fully experiencing it. Amen sisters.
Luckily, a lot of those same women are helping me raise Ri. She’s bearing witness to many of the acts I bore witness to as a young girl. Amen again, sisters.
And so while I appreciate and take note of these articles that remind us to watch what we are saying to our daughters and how we are talking about our own bodies around them, I also need to keep in mind the importance of actions.
Buy the Dusty dolls and the science kits.
Dance around the house like an exotic butterfly.
Fix the kitchen drain with my own two hands.
Mow the lawn.
Jump on my bike with Ri and ride a trail.
Embrace my stomach and my butt.
Write a poem.
Lift heavy weights.
Flex my muscles.
Let Ri see, as well as hear, that no matter if you have lotsa rolls or just a few, who cares? Concentrate on simply diving into life and fully experiencing it.
I think she’s getting it just fine.