Yesterday, as I was getting dressed, my 2-year-old daughter sat on the bed beside me. I could feel her eyes on me, looking up from the Ipad where a few short months ago Pepa Pig would have had her so transfixed, a bomb could go off and she wouldn’t know. She’s so much more aware of the world around her these days, so much more aware of me.
As I finished drying off, I stood in front of my cupboard deciding what to wear. She put the Ipad down and moved on to her tummy, her chubby little hands cupping the soft flesh under her face. She lay on her tummy looking at me for a while, kicking her sweet little legs behind her. I noticed her eyes run over my tummy, up to my eyes and then back to my tummy again. And then without a second thought, as if it was the most natural thing in the world, she said, “Mom, I like your body. It’s so gorgeous.” Did I mention to you that she’s two?
She had said something similar a few days before about a top I was wearing. She seemed to like the leopard print pattern, and announced matter of factly, “Mama I like your top, you look so gorgeous!”
But hearing her say the words “Mom I like your body,” made me feel so many different emotions. It made me feel so much more aware of myself in front of her, naked. And I think I’m starting to make sense of why it is that these words conjured up such strong emotions for me.
I looked at her and tried not to giggle. I mean it’s not every day your two-year-old comments on your naked physique, in such a sweet and genuine way.
But I realized quickly why she felt so comfortable saying it. Why it was such a natural thing to say at that moment. She was simply mimicking me, the words I say to her each and every day. She was using words she had been taught, words she associated with the naked female body. Because I tell her every opportunity I can get, that her body is so gorgeous, it’s no wonder her words began to mirror mine.
It dawned on me too that my response would be just as important, that my role in this significant conversation didn’t end there. I knew in that moment that I had the opportunity to go deeper into this beautiful world of self-love with her, and that teaching my daughter that her body is beautiful meant I had to show her that I felt the same about my own. I knew that the way I responded to her beautiful and honest words was just as vital as to her learning them. What good would it be to teach her to love and accept her own body if I couldn’t do the same?
Of course, my initial response to anyone else would have been to laugh in their face and say “What crack are you smoking?” or hide my lumps in bumps in embarrassment and shame. But something inside me knew that my response would carry more weight than either of us knew in that moment. I knew I had to be wise as I navigated these uncharted waters because it was my response that would be etched in her little mind long after this conversation ended.
And so I looked at her and said, “Thank you my darling, I like my tummy too. I love that God made it to carry you and your brothers for 9 whole months. Do you know that you lived inside my tummy for such a long time? Our bodies are all so beautiful hey? And strong! And we can do so much with them — we can run and jump and climb mountains and walk to the park ” She listened tentatively for a while and then casually went back to watching her favourite episode of Pepa Pig. How much of what I just said will stick with her I thought as I looked down at my wobbly tummy, that just moments before was being praised.
It was this one simple conversation that has made me that much more aware of how much my words affect my little girl. And that as she grows up, just how much of an impact I am going to have on her and her feelings of self-worth. Or in many ways, how so much of what I say and do has influenced her innocent little mind already. I see the way she looks at me when I brush or curl my hair, I see her face squish up in delight as she watches me put lipstick on before leaving the house…. These days she’s already fast on my heels, asking “I have lipdick too! I want look pretty too, I need lipdick” Yes, I’m fully aware that the first thing that needs to be addressed is her somewhat questionable pronunciation, but I actually can’t bring myself to do it. She’s two and already into my makeup and creams and pretty paraphernalia I leave lying on my dresser. She two and already adopting this sense of “normal” female behaviour, just by me demonstrating these acts to her every day.
As a mom to both a girl and two boys, I have such a big responsibility ensuring the fundamentals for good self-esteem are in place from a young age. I realise its just as important for my boys to have a good example of what a happy and confident female body looks like, and more so that they come in many different shapes and sizes, all equally perfect and all worthy of love and celebration. I want my boys to feel confident in their own bodies too, to not feel tempted to compare themselves, to feel secure in who they are and what they look like.
Body positivity is something that we are all constantly working towards, especially as women living in today’s Instagram society. I pray that I will always have the wisdom and understanding to be able to instil a healthy sense of self-love and appreciation in my little girl, despite my own struggles and demons. I pray she always knows where her true value lies. And I pray she will, first and foremost, always remember who she is inside and that she is fearfully and wonderfully made, by a God who makes no mistakes.