In an attempt to create a body-loving world within our home, I may have been body shaming my six-year-old
In the shower she looks at me, “I eat and eat, but I got to eat more!” I smile at her, as I do at most things she says, “To grow?” She shakes her hands, impatiently, “So I can not be so skinny!”
I’ve made a really big deal of it being OK to be fat. When she was four she said she was sad that her belly was not flat like her dolls, I freaked. I went to the library looking for self-love children’s books. I bought I Like Myself! and Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon. I had a Girls Inc. postcard hanging on our bathroom door saying, “Tell me my most attractive feature is my self-confidence.”
I grew up hating my body. I hated myself for too long, hated my body until I was pregnant and it literally took on new life. I can’t let her deal with that all-consuming negativity.
I don’t tell her she’s too skinny or anything. But, she has probably heard me telling family members that we can’t find pants that fit her, since she is so tall and so thin. Strangers stop to tell her how skinny she is. One corner store cashier told her she was perfect because she was skinny. I didn’t like that. But I didn’t bother asking her how she felt about it either. I told her that she is worth more than her body, I told her all of her amazing qualities, but I didn’t ask her how she felt.
After all, she is confident and she is the poster child for what North American society deems perfect image wise: Tall, thin, blond hair, blue eyes. She loves the camera and attention. She wants so badly to play Annie. She can’t feel shame about her body! Not my little girl!
But why not? I made such a big deal about her saying her belly was big, that I’ve never talked to her about all the recent comments of her thinness. She hears me talk about it, just not with her. She hears me tease my boyfriend for being so tall and thin – PS, he’s gorgeous – she doesn’t get it is in jest. And, really, it is a joke that needn’t be told. No, he doesn’t mind, he thinks it’s funny too, but I need to think about the little, nearby ears, soaking everything in.
In this fight to make sure bigger bodies are loved, things have been twisted to, yet again, to have women pitted against each other. “Fuck them skinny bitches” and “Real women have curves” are harmful the way “Eat a salad” or being called a pig can be.
“The best advise I have for little ones is to know that their body is exactly perfect just the way it is!” Jill Andrew, co-founder of the Body Confidence Canada Awards – among other things, one of which being one cool cat – writes me. “Your daughter needs to know that her body is thin and that that is A-Okay. She needs to be reminded about ALL the amazing things her body can do for her (such as allow her to play with friends, allow her to raise her hand in class to answer questions) AND not to mention her body gets her up and out the door every single morning.”
She advises that we all teach our children to be media literate; a body equity or young women’s leadership group can’t hurt either.
Right now, starting today, I’m going to watch what I say. I’m going to comment less on appearance (I am not cutting physical compliments out entirely, I’ve explained why in the past) I’m going to keep teaching self-love, demonstrate it more, and now – calm the fuck down.
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