It’s been a long, cold winter, and I’m a lot softer and paler than I was when this season started. So the other day when I looked in the bathroom mirror, I couldn’t help but groan at what I saw.
“Ugh…I look horrible!”
I said out loud. And a little voice that came from a place as high as my waist responded.
“Why do you look horrible, mommy?”
Anyone who knows me will tell you that my daughter and I look alike. A LOT alike. So when I looked down toward that little voice, I couldn’t help but see a little…..me. Staring up at a grown-up….her. And at that moment, I vowed to not speak about myself negatively, especially in front of her, again.
I’m the one who will be responsible for building up her self esteem strong enough to withstand the rest of the world trying to tear it down. What kind of a role model am I if she sees me tearing myself apart?
For years I’ve pinched extra skin on my thighs and scowled. I’ve made lists of the things I ate as I counted calories. I’ve sneered at the new wrinkles I wake up with. But do I want her to do those things to herself as she gets older? Not over my dead body.
I want her to be active by finding something she loves to do…softball or volleyball or riding her bike. Not just choosing the thing that burns the most fat.
I want her to enjoy sitting and sharing a box of fries with her teenage friends while sipping on a frappe. And not think about how long she’ll need to run when she gets home to burn it off.
I want her to accept every little laugh line on her face as a memory of the good times that life has blessed her with. Not try to wipe them away.
At three years old, she dances around like she doesn’t care how she looks. She chooses to wear boots that don’t match her outfit at all, but that’s her style. She eats snacks that sound good to her, and doesn’t think about whether or not the wheat in them will make her belly fat. Her care-free attitude is something I strive to get back.
I don’t want her to skip birthday cake and ice cream. I don’t want her to work out obsessively for two or three hours a day. I don’t want her to throw her back out and never be able to run again after the age of 35. Trying to be perfect isn’t worth it.
I don’t mean to sound like I don’t worry about my boys, because I have other concerns for them. But girls are different. As boys get older, they have hot dog eating contests, while girls give dirty looks to their friends who are eating more than an apple and a cheese stick. If boys have holes in the knees of their pants, that means they played hard. Girls who don’t have the right brand of pants will be gossiped about. It’s not fair, and the only way to prevent the rest of the world from eating her alive is if she learns to keep loving herself from the start. I learned that from my parents who always built me up, but somewhere along the way, I still let society get the best of me.
Luckily, having kids is teaching me to focus on things other than having a perfect body and a perfectly shaped face. I love their chubby cheeks. When did I stop liking mine?
And having a little girl that looks like me is giving me an opportunity to be better to myself. Not just my grown-up self, but my little self. When she looks in the mirror, hopefully she’ll never say she looks horrible. Hopefully she’ll always smile, and say what she says now: “I’m beautiful.”