We assembled our new trampoline, a Christmas gift from Santa, over the weekend. To inaugurate it, we invited a couple of my daughters’ friends over to play. While they were busy outside, I took the opportunity to restore my home to some semblance of order after over a week of complete neglect. Having these kids over was also a small way I could begin to show my appreciation for their parents, who helped our family out while I was sick.
The four 7-year-olds had so much fun! There were the inevitable arguments and M broke down in tears at one point, but overall it was a lovely day. The children were all so occupied with each other that I got a done of cleaning done.
I overheard an interesting conversation during lunch.
Guest 1: My mom says she thinks she’s fat.
Guest 2/J: What?
Guest 2: No way! She’s skinny!
M: She’s not skinny! She’s just right.
Guest 2: She’s perfect.
Guest 1/M/J: Yeah.
These feisty 7-year-olds reminded me to love myself. Pretense goes nowhere with children. Just avoiding criticizing myself in front of the kids would never do. They know what’s going on. I have to really, truly, deeply love myself and appreciate the body in which I experience life.
Both our guests’ mothers are beautiful, inside and out. It makes me so sad to think that they might not know that. They’re both very slender. They’re both strong, inspiring women. They are, as our children agreed, perfect, just as they are. I hope that our girls will all see in themselves the same physical perfection they see in their mothers, throughout their lives.
I’ve certainly had my share of typical women’s self-image issues. I felt terribly ugly as a child. I thought my eczema made me look monstrous. I resented my diminutive size. Even today, I resent the extra girth I’ve been carrying around since I gave into emotional eating when my husband left me. I know that my nose is a large one and that my hair misbehaves. I wish I could grab clothes off the rack and have them fit my 5’0″ frame. I wish I found sex pleasurable. I wish I had fun in athletic pursuits or could swim elegantly, but instead I fumble my way through aerobics and weight classes and laugh at myself when I trip.
All that said, I love being me. I feel comfortable in my skin. When I jump on our new trampoline with our girls, I do so with the same abandon as the children. I don’t much care to play dress up or play with makeup the way the kids do, but I never did, even when I was their age.
I want to gain muscle to be strong and pain-free, not to fit society’s idea of an ideal female body. If I lose fat along the way, great, but my focus is on strength. I like my muscular thighs and wouldn’t want slender ones. I’m surprised to discover that I don’t mind the droop in the breasts. They’ve lost their perkiness because they fed my babies. The stretch marks on my belly are my battle scars from protecting twins inside my body. My hairline receded from the hormones that helped me create life. I want to trim my waist so I have more years with my children and their children, not to make clothes hang right.
Perhaps I should thank my mother for the constant criticism of my looks that forced me to find value within myself. In my early teens, she had me do arm exercises because she felt I needed to rid myself of the unfeminine curve of my upper arm, a curve I learned in health class was my triceps. For my 18th birthday, she offered me a nose job. She never liked that I inherited my father’s hooked beak. When I was 20, she bought me 3 dresses 2 sizes too small for “when [I] lose the weight.” I weighed 104 lbs, and my thick waist came from a ribcage expanded by hours of singing.
I vowed to myself that my children would always know that their bodies were beautiful, but even more importantly, functional. I knew that in order to teach that lesson, I needed to love my own body.
Can you look in the mirror and see yourself through your child’s eyes? I think you’ll find that you’re perfect, just as you are.
Sadia (rhymes with Nadia) has been coordinating How Do You Do It? since late 2012. She is the divorced mother of 7-year-old monozygotic twins, M and J. She lives with them and their 3 cats in the Austin, TX suburbs and works full time as a business analyst. She retired her personal blog, Double the Fun, when the girls entered elementary school and also blogs at Adoption.com and Multicultural Mothering.