Yesterday I wrote about my calves. How they are not my favorite. How I went from covering them up because I was ashamed of them to realizing that, hey, they do a dang good job of what they do and they deserve some recognition. Or at least for me to not be embarrassed by them. Even if they are not the shapely, tapered runner’s legs of my dreams, they are strong and they help me to be strong and healthy, too. I have made peace with them, and I have no trouble exposing them to the world these days. I’m not even self-conscious about it. My legs are my legs and I’m going to own them.
And my body is my body, and I’m going to own it, too. For the past several years I have made a conscious effort to speak no evil of my body. Especially not in the presence of the little ears that belong to my children. I don’t believe they know about dieting. We don’t speak of being fat. And when my 3-year-old kindly points out that it looks, 6 months after his baby sister was born, that I’m growing another one, I laugh along with him (before texting my husband so he can remind me that 3-year-olds have no idea what they are talking about).
What we do talk about is how to use our bodies well and to make them better. We do push-ups not because our arms are jiggly but because we want to be stronger. We run not to lose weight but because we like to run, and we like to see how fast we can go. We eat carrots because they are tasty and the beta carotene helps our eyes, and kale because it is delicious and good for our bones.
So far, this strategy seems to be working. Our two boys, though still quite young, take joy in movement and are excited and motivated by the prospect of being strong and healthy. However, the baby, the girl, is just getting started. At 9 months old, she is bright and beautiful. She is starting to communicate and just about ready to take her first steps. And she absolutely needs/idolizes her mother. I realize that she is at the age when acute separation anxiety is normal. But her case of it is more intense than her brothers and in it I see the way she will look to me as she grows up. She will be my buddy, my shadow and I hope I will be worthy of her admiration and emulation. Part of my job, then, is to show her that I have a healthy attitude toward my body. There is nothing wrong with it the way it is. My body is generally healthy and it allows me to do whatever I need to do. That is the important thing, and that is what I hope to model for her first and foremost so that she does not become obsessed by or ashamed of her body in anyway.
But still, I feel like I would be doing her, and myself a disservice if I left it at that. Which is why if I spotted “10 Exercises That Will Give You Shapely Calves” on a magazine cover, I might just get sucked in. Because even if there is nothing wrong with my body, even if it doesn’t need to be “fixed,” there is nothing wrong with seeking improvement, or with trying to be better. There is power in being aware of our weaknesses because then we can strive to make them stronger. And I want to teach my daughter that, too. I might be satisfied with my body, I may even be happy with it, but there is also joy, and accomplishment, in striving to be better, and stronger, and healthier.