My daughter Emma has a beautiful, round tummy.
She loves to lift up her shirt and point to it, while happily announcing, “belly!” She pushes the baby flesh in while laughing. “Look at that awesome tummy,” I say, and chuckle with her.
She is so excited in these moments, to be able to identify her stomach.
Emma is not even two, yet can I see how her little body makes her proud. She struts around, with her shoulders back and chest out. She happily names all of her body parts. “Eyes, nose, face, toes, tushy,” she says affirmatively, while pointing to each one. Her toddler legs are fast; they let her run.
Emma pulls herself up onto grownup chairs with her strong little arms.
Of course I think my daughter is beautiful—she is my child.
I am so thrilled that she is proud of her big, squishy belly, but I know she won’t always feel this way. Each day she becomes more aware of the world around her. Soon, she will notice the images of perfect bodies in movies and the flat bellies in magazines and advertisements. I don’t know how it will affect her self-image. I wonder what she will think of her belly in 10 years.
Will she suck her stomach in while trying to fit into a tight pair of jeans?
Will she think that her butt is too big?
Will she come to hate her thighs as so many women do or will she be grateful that they help her run?
I want to bottle up Emma’s current self-image and give it to her when she becomes a teenager. My hope is that she will grow up remembering how strong and beautiful she is, but I know that it may be a challenge.
I want to teach Emma many lessons; at the forefront of my list is my desire that she continue to be proud of her body.
This is a tall order for a parent: to remind their children that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, even though the entertainment industry does not reflect this. But, I start with the basics: we look in the mirror often and she points at herself, smiling while I remind her of her beauty. I take Emma to mommy and me classes where she can use her body; we do toddler dance and toddler yoga.
She loves to jump up and down. She runs instead of walking. Whenever she hears a song she loves, she dances around the room in circles, laughing. I remind her of her physical power often and all of the activities that she can do thanks her strong body.
And then, of course, comes the most challenging part for a mother trying to teach her child to have positive body image: modeling this self-love for her. Although my body will never be the same from pregnancy and childbirth, I let her know that I love myself anyway. I let her lift up my shirt and point to my belly, which is covered in stretch marks. “Look at mommy’s beautiful belly!” I say, and invite her to snuggle down into it.
She loves my stomach, so how can I feel any differently? It held her for nine long months. I have to love it because it allowed me to have her.
Emma surprised me recently, when I asked about her favorite body part: “Heart, inside” she replied. She lifted up her shirt to point out her chest. “Yes,” I said. Yes. The most important part of your body is your heart, on the inside. I hope she continues to remember that what lies within us is what really matters.
I am always grateful for the lessons from my daughter, and this one is particularly significant. Emma reminds me to love all of myself, imperfect parts and all. So, we go through our days together, proud of our bodies and loving our beautiful, round bellies.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Becky Tountas
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: another sergio at Flickr