"Mom, why can't I have macaroni and cheese every day?" Chloe asked me the other evening.
"Well, it's not very good for you," I explained. "It's just a lot of fat and fillers. It's ok now and then, but you don't want to eat it a lot," I told her. She pondered what I had said.
"You don't want me to be chubby like Suzie, do ya?" she concluded.
Stop. I had to stop and contemplate what I would say to her. This was a prime time to discuss body image, and I didn't want to give her the wrong idea. How did I tell her that no, I don't WANT her to be "chubby," as she put it, but that if she IS chubby, she should love herself anyway and not be obsessed with skinny. I have a hard time embracing my own body, how can I teach HER to do it?
"I want you to be healthy, but I don't care what you look like as long as you are healthy," I told her.
"Ahhh!" she said, as if having had a EUREKA moment. "I see. So you let me have mac and cheese SOMETIMES even 'doh it has fat, because I need to grow my curves."
"Girls shouldn't be straight like a boy. Day need ta grow dere curves so dey will be pretty like a lady," she told me. I smiled.
She was right. I find myself struggling so often with weight and body image, and from the mouth of a five year-old comes a nugget of wisdom. Here I was trying to teach HER a lesson, and she was teaching me one.
But the kicker came just a few nights ago.
Every night after we have both taken a bath, we sit together and put on our lotion. She struggles with eczema, so I have to keep her hydrated, and it's no secret she loves getting her back and belly rubbed every night. She, in turn, likes to put my belly balm on my belly, being sure to get IN my belly button so that the baby can have some, too ;)
As she was putting it on the other night, she asked me why I just put it on my belly.
"To keep it from getting too dry," I replied. "When my skin is dry, it gets really tight, and with the baby growing and pulling my skin, it will stretch easier if it's not so dry," I went on to explain.
"Did you use it wif me?" she asked? I told her I did. She put some more on her little finger and rubbed it just below my belly button.
"Here. Let me put some on your stretch marks. I was a big girl, wasn't I? To make dose."
I was quiet. There are one or two things I'm super-sensitive about, and those scars of motherhood are definitely one of them. "I don't want to talk about those," I told her quietly.
"Why? Dere so beautiful," she said with a smile.
I know she picked up on my tone and my mood. I know she knew it bothered me and was just trying to make me feel better.
"I don't think so," I said.
"Day are. Day make your skin look like it's got pretty lace on it. Like your weddin' dress. See my belly? My skin is just (scrunchy face) all plain and boring. You have a lacey belly. I hope when I have a baby I get a lacey belly," She said with a smile.
And while I KNOW they're not pretty and they DON'T look like lace, the fact that she went to such great lenghts to try and CHANGE my perception amazes me. Now every time I see them, instead of ugly scars, I see wedding lace. And I feel love. And now it's more than just the mark of becoming a mother. It's a mark of love.
The biggest thing I learned? Teaching her about body image may not be as important as SHOWING her how to love your body. A lesson that SHE taught ME.