Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Seven-Year-Old Body Image

Two different friends pointed me to this excellent piece by Janell Hoffmann “Mom, I’m Fat:” One Mother’s Inspired Response to Her 7 Year Old on Rachel Simmons’ website.

In the essay, Hoffman reacts just as I believe I would if my daughter said those words. She’d dumbfounded; she’s done everything right in raising her to love herself just the way she is. She tries to talk her way through the issue with her daughter but finally feels out of words.

That’s when she does what I have resorted to in similar type situations; she strips off her own clothing and makes up a silly song.

““We are perfect, just the way we are.” It’s wild and silly, but I cannot be stopped. We’re shaking everything, and she’s belly laughing and totally thrilled. I pick her up. We are a ridiculous and magnificent pair. The other kids hear the commotion and barge in. They are confused and horrified. I carry her to the bedroom raving about all the ways we are powerful and naked and women. We settle into comfy pajamas and read a story together. Fat is not mentioned again.

On this night, I have no idea if I have succeeded. I’m not sure if what I said and did had an impact, if I fixed anything, or even if I changed her mind. But I do know that I must continue to infuse myself and my children with bold confidence. I must check in, ask questions, take the time. I must build and undo. I must be open and genuine. I must but willing to dance naked in the mirror, resist the urge to see all the ways five babies have changed me, and stare straight into my reflection with love. Then together, with a twinkle in our eyes, we only see radiance shining back.”
To me, this is what we must do as mothers of girls. We must improvise and respond to the situations presented to us. We must be honest and open. We must be willing to strip down our own inhibitions about our imperfect bodies and learn how to embrace ourselves as we teach our daughters to do the same.

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