Genetics being what they are, I have three children all different shapes and sizes. Just as my Mama had four children who, while similarities could be seen, have grown to be four very different looking people.
The one thing that all of mine have in common, according to my sweet Cousin, is their eyes. She says they all have my eyes.
I love that she thinks so.
However, my oldest is average in height and has an attractive build. My middle one, our Princess, is tall for her age. She wears a shoe size bigger than mine and she’s ten. She is of a thin athletic build. My little guy, bless him, inherited my height–so he’s shorter than his cousin who is younger than he is. I try to soothe his frustrations by imagining with him all the wonderful things he can do–like spying–if he stays on the shorter side.
It’s a hard road to walk, and it requires a sensitive heart and carefully thought out words to parent each one of them. To help them to feel good about themselves. Because I want that so much for each one of them–for him or her to be able to look in a mirror and say, “Hey, all right! Looking good!” No matter what.
Because I can tell you–each one of them is beautiful, inside and out, in his or her own way.
And it’s not just because I’m their Mama. Or maybe it is. But that shouldn’t matter.
I grew up worrying over weight. I remember counting calories as a young teen. WHY DID I DO THAT? I am sad for myself thinking back on that. I wish I had loved ME more. It’s not something I let go of easily either. I’ve tried to put the scales away, but sometimes they call my name. Usually frustration follows, so because those scales do not bring out the best in me, I need to choose my company wisely and kick those scales to the curb.
Because our Princess is built differently–tall and slender, I guess we’ve always assumed she wouldn’t have body issues. People look at her and see a tall, thin girl, something that is lauded in our society. No problem, right?
We got to swim practice early, so she had been playing on the playground with her brother for a few minutes. When she came up to get ready, she climbed up on the bleachers where I was sitting, and slipped off her playclothes that she was wearing over her swimsuit. An acquaintance sitting close by called her name and said, “You are getting so tall. And too thin.” And she laughed amiably.
I teach my children to speak when spoken to. To reply when asked a question. To say thank you in response to praise or a compliment.
Y’all, I got no idea how I should have prompted my girl to respond to that.
Apparently she didn’t either because she gave the woman a long look with question in her eyes, and then went on about her business of putting on her swim cap and goggles. She hopped down and flitted (she’s a butterfly in a people body I’m convinced) to the pool.
She loves to swim. I doubt that the comment stayed in her mind or heart for any time after it was released into being.
But for me, I was in the shower when it hit me. That’s where I do my best thinking sometimes, and as the water poured so did the tears. I don’t want her to suffer body issues. Bless her, she will wind up with body issues because of folks telling her they’re jealous because she has no reason to have body issues.
I can’t even.
I don’t want her to be self-conscious about her body just like I don’t want that for her brother or her older sister. If I could prevent it, I would, but I’m afraid I have our culture, our values, and folks sitting on the bleachers working against me.
Can we all just sit down right now and agree that we need to stop talking about bodies–our bodies, other people’s bodies, all the bodies? Can we agree that there are much better things to talk about–good food, old stories, the best bargain we’ve ever come across, or how to join yarn when creating an afghan? Seriously, there are so many better things to spent our time with others talking about, don’t you think?
Tonight I’m thankful for all the variety there is in Creation–color, shapes, sizes…..and I’m thankful for each one of my beautiful, healthy children. I’ll be dog if I want any one of them counting calories as a teenager. It’s not okay. I want them to look at the world and shine like the stars that they are, not stare in a mirror woefully wishing things were different–that they were different.
Just for this day let’s let go of the old standards of beauty, and let’s focus on the things we can control about ourselves–kindness, wisdom, compassion, honesty, fidelity, persistence. Let’s be our best selves, and my hope is that the next time we look in the mirror, that’s who we see–our best selves. It’s time to put a stop to holding ourselves up to a glossy page in a magazine and hold ourselves up to a higher standard. One of the heart. To be beautiful from the inside out.
Now go be your beautiful best self, and sparkle on.
Love to all.