I believe in teaching my daughter to love her body.
I think every kid starts out loving her body, reveling in each new trick it can perform, from learning to crawl to doing the hokey-pokey. Somewhere along the way, however, I’ve seen girls lose that joy and instead start seeing their bodies as imperfect machines that must constantly be improved and combed over for defects.
I want to positively shape my little girl’s future by turning off the flaw finder in my own head, showing her I have a great body because it works—I can walk, bike, dance, and even run if something truly frightening is chasing me. When my son pinches the fat on the back of my arm as I hold him on my hip, I remind myself that these arms can carry him for hours if they have to, they can swing my daughter up in the air, and they can do the knick-knack-paddy-whack-give-a-dog-a-bone with the best of them. This body walked me through the theater and into the practice room where I met my husband. This body carried two kids through full pregnancies before turning them out only when each was complete. This body has been known to get down, get funky, and even get the lead out. I love my body, and I want my daughter to see her body in the same way.
This doesn’t mean that I have a so-called perfect body, and I’m not about to relate my hard-fought battle to return to fitness, turning my flabby parts into steel, feeling the burn, and strengthening my core. If you look at me, I think you could tell that my stomach muscles have gotten the kind of stretching that only pregnancy could possibly allow. Who wouldn’t love to have zero cellulite and sculpted abs? I’m not immune to the shocking postpregnancy images of celebrities where only their lips seem to have gotten any bigger. But I am not a movie star surrounded by a phalanx of personal trainers. Right now I spend my time making models of the solar system or baking cakes with my daughter. My son is just learning to walk, and I spend my days keeping up with my kids, not going to the gym.
I never moan about the clear effects gravity has on breasts that are done breastfeeding; I’ve lived in my body, and I’m not ashamed of being thirty-seven or of having had two kids. In front of the mirror I say, “Check out my muscle-y arms!” or “I can stand on my toes!” I feel proud each time my daughter watches me get dressed and I don’t say, “Does this make me look fat?” I show my daughter the wonders of skipping rope, the joys of hopping, and the elation of flying around like a scary pterodactyl.
I believe a healthy body is a treasure to celebrate.
Kikki Short lives with her husband, two kids, one turtle, and one bearded dragon in New York. She teaches kids with learning disabilities.
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