I can't say that my mommy-daughter conversations always go as smooth or as successful as the one below. Whether about bodies, food, where the sun goes when it’s dark, or why some people are mean to others for no reason, my daughters stump me. A lot.
When the stump is about unimportant social mores or random mysteries of the universe (like Why is A the first letter of the alphabet? Or Why do we need to say you’re welcome when someone says thank you?), I don't worry too much about my responsibility to say just the right thing. But when the question has to do with being kind to others or being kind to ourselves, or when I think the lesson I might teach will have a tremendous impact on their way of seeing the world, I want to get it "right."
I often fail.
I try to keep in mind that it will not be any one sentence or explanation that will make the most difference as much as it will be the cumulative collection of messages and modeling that I impart.
It won't be me saying "Don't hate your body" that helps my daughters love theirs. It will be me modeling myself actively loving my own, choosing to love my body.
It won't be me telling them "Don't deprive your body" that helps my daughters nourish theirs. It will be the collection of messages they hear me telling myself, the stockpile of memories I hope to build up for them of when I was kind to my body, was gentle with my body, was patient with my body, was forgiving of my body, was able to give my body what it was asking for.
It won't be me telling them "Don't care what others say about your body" that helps my daughters feel confident in and accepting of their own. It will be the pattern of times they saw me being confident in my own, accepting my body just as it is, regardless of what others may say about it.
Like I said, I often fail, but this one felt like a win:
****watching USA gymnastics women kick butt****
Daughter: Mommy, that girl's butt is fat like yours!
Me: Oh yeah? Hmm. I bet her butt is really strong.
Daughter: Mommy, I don't have a fat butt like that. Does that mean my butt is not strong?
Me: Nah, not necessarily. Bodies come in all different shapes and sizes, and we can't always tell how strong or weak a body is just by looking at it.
****Minutes pass as she thoughtfully processes the new info, then breaks into a smile****
Daughter: Mommy, look at what my body can do!!
****jumps around room, wiggles, and bends over while holding one leg up in the air****
Me: Wow, your body sure can do a lot!!