In our house, we don’t lock bathroom or bedroom doors, so my 4-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter see me naked several times a day. Despite all the square footage in our home, my kids end up seeing me when I’m in the bathroom, taking a shower, or changing my clothes — because apparently seeing me in my birthday suit is very fascinating for them (big BOOBS and everything ELSE!).
I, on the other hand, would rather be covered up as much as possible. After two children, my body is a road map of veins and stretch marks that lead to two very deflated tires along with a slightly spare one around my waist. It is what it is, but there are days when I have a hard time accepting it.
Now, I do my best to stay active and eat healthy, so I probably wouldn’t worry about my body so much if it weren’t for my daughter and her inquisitive mind about every curve, hair, inch and pinch around my frame. She loves to ask me questions (“Mommy, is that hair?”) and even shuffles around my closet putting together impromptu fashion shows that involve her and her brother wearing my Victoria’s not-so-secrets on their heads.
Her favorite game is to put on my clothes, spray my Givenchy Bucolique Blossom perfume, slip into my heels, and pretend that she’s “Mom.” I’ve even seen her peeking through the open door while I inspect certain soft elements of my body (oh, muffin top … ) and squeeze into my size-6 shorts with the temporary relief that I can still fit into my old clothes, even though the scale shows a different number than it did 10 years ago.
She’s always looking at me in awe, probably taking mental notes of how she should perceive her own body. If she sees me criticizing myself or using the F-word all too often (no, not that F-word, but the other), there’s a good chance that she will do the same one day.
In other words, how can I teach my daughter to love herself the way she is, when she sees how critically I judge my own appearance?
It’s a dilemma that has made me reflect on how we as mothers should be better role models for our highly impressionable daughters — especially when it comes to our bodies and our weight.
Celebrity mom Bethenny Frankel recently shared a photo of herself wearing her 4-year-old daughter’s pajamas with the caption, “Think we’re ready to start sharing clothes yet?”
It’s caused a lot of outrage on the Internet, with people lashing out at the TV host, calling her “too skinny” and accusing her of being an exhibitionist for posting the photo online. In Frankel’s defense, she says she put on the pajamas because her daughter begged her to, not because she was looking to show off her size 0 frame.
Of course, I wouldn’t be able to fit into my 6-year-old’s size-XS shorts or her Anna and Elsa pajamas. Unlike the Barbie dolls she has scattered around her bedroom floor, I don’t have an 18-inch waist, and my arms aren’t the size of my wrists. I’m not Bethenny Frankel. I can’t fit into toddler-sized clothing, and I don’t want to be a person who does.
But you know what bothers me the most? That our daughters not only hear us criticize ourselves, but witness women bashing other women for the thing that makes us strong and unique: our bodies.
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from Frankel’s pajama drama, it’s that my daughter is watching every move I make. I need to be more careful with my self-criticism and I surely shouldn’t be pointing fingers at another woman and her body. My baby girl is learning from my behavior the same way Frankel’s 4-year-old daughter is taking notes about hers, no matter what her mother wears.
While I know there’s room for self-improvement when it comes to my own body image, I’d like to teach my daughter that having a female body is the best weapon a woman can have in her life. Rather than being mocked or criticized, it should be celebrated, no matter what the size — deflated boobs and all.
Photo credit: Joanna Mazewski
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