There I am, standing in front of the mirror at Target looking at my figure, when I realize someone is watching my every move. It’s just me and my 3-year-old, and she just stares. And stares. And stares.
In my head, I feel like she’s analyzing my bumps, my moles, my insecurities.
I try on bra after bra, bathing suit after bathing suit, cursing myself silently along the way.
I’ve indulged too much lately and gained weight. I need to lose it stat before bathing suit season.
I have to concentrate SO hard to not let the words spill out of my mouth and into the brain of a highly sensitive preschooler.
“I don’t like that one,” she points out as I try on a bathing suit that’s too small. If only I was a size smaller, I think to myself.
Then I try on a bright blue one, and her eyes light up. “That one is pretty, mama!”
I look at myself in disgust. The thighs are cut way too high, exposing much more booty than I am comfortable with showing to the world. As I undress, I see her look of curiosity.
“Mama, why is your belly big?” followed by “Why are their lines on it?”
At this point, she’s right in my bubble, almost touching my stomach — the part I’ve always felt the most insecure about. I have to fight the urge not to let tears come to my eyes. Gotta love when kids call it how they see it, and it hits you where it hurts.
I pause for a moment to think of how to explain how a woman’s body changes over time.
Then I have a flash back to 1989. I’m watching my own mother get naked in the dressing room. She knows I am watching her, and no matter her insecurities, she doesn’t let a single.one.show. To this day, I don’t know how she never showed a sign of weakness. I never recall her putting herself down in any manner. But I am not my mom, and when I talk, I usually say too much, and am overly sensitive.
Finally, I answer.
“I’ve carried 3 big babies in this tummy. My body has been all sorts of shapes, and so it may not look perfect to everyone, but I am happy, and that’s what matters most.”
The explanation seems to suffice, and she moves on. But I can’t help but wonder if I said the right thing. Will she remember this moment in the future? Who knows. I sometimes wish I had a consistent script to follow when my kids throw me for a loop like that.
I want to raise strong girls. I want them to embrace their imperfections and love their curves. I want them to appreciate a smile wrinkle when it happens, knowing it means happy experiences and wisdom gained.
I want them to stand proud in the dressing room one day, easily able to undress in front of their own children, showing them it’s OK to be vulnerable and naked in front of those you trust and love.
I think all these things in the span of two minutes as I hang the bras and bathing suits back on hangers.
Which, as it happens, is just enough time for a 3-year-old to plot an escape while my back is turned.
I guess we’ll save the deeper body image discussion for another day.
How do you explain your body imperfections to your children? Advice welcome! 🙂