Monday, June 15, 2009

Body image at 5? Really?

Well, it's started. The body image thing, that is. This weekend, Olivia came up to me in her adorable blue bikini after eating a banana and asked, "Mommy, is this big?" and pointed to her tummy.

Oh no, I thought. First of all, she's got the perfectly normal little five-year-old body. She's VERY active and while she does love to eat, we keep it in check. She happily keeps it healthy, and will of her own accord choose a handful of grapes, an apple, or a banana when she's hungry.

I pulled her on to my lap. "No honey, of course it's not big," I said. "Your tummy is beautiful!" I didn't want to say "skinny" or "thin" and continue to promote the fat/thin image. She smiled, and looked at me.

Now, for those of you who don't know me or haven't seen me lately, I can't exactly shop off the rack at Abercrombie & Fitch, if you know what I mean. I was never skinny, and carrying three babies, two of which rolled in at 10 pounds or more, took its toll on my midsection - and I didn't strap on my workout shoes as often as I probably should have to take care of it. Olivia has made comments in the past about how "big" I know, from the mouths of babes. Innocent, but good opportunities to teach her about what you should and should not say to people, so as not to hurt feelings. We've had a few chats about how there are all different colors, shapes, and sizes of people in the world.

Anyway, after asking me about her tummy, she pointed at mine. She said, "Mommy, your tummy is," and she hesitated for a split second. "...your tummy is beautiful, too."

Eureka! She was listening! Fellow parents, you know what I'm talking about - when your child finally proves to you that they've been listening all along, when you thought it was truly going in one ear and out the other.

I gave her a huge hug. "Thank you, honey," I said. My sweet baby.

This opens up a big new can of worms for us, though. A couple of days later, she asked again about her tummy. I tried to find out why she was asking me, without making too big a deal of it - did someone say something to her? Are her friends talking about their tummies? - but she only indicated that she had thought to ask herself, no outside pressure.

Is it in our girl genes? Do we come out of the womb worring about our cellulite? Are the images she's seeing on television influencing her already? Is she scared she looks like me? Why on earth is my five-year-old worried about her weight? One more thing for Mom to worry about...

1 comment:

shortstack said...

At 5?!? That breaks my heart and is such, such, a sad commentary on our culture and its plague of body-hatred that it pours upon our gender. I love how you handled it and hope she listens. :)