How do you teach your daughters to love their bodies? How do you teach your daughters to own their bodies? How do you teach your daughters to treat their bodies as vessels? How do you teach your daughters to take care of their bodies?
When you don’t?
This, for me, is the hardest part of being a parent. True story. I have been terrified of Emily hitting adolescence from the moment they placed her in my arms and announced “It’s a girl!” There are a whole bunch of exciting things to look forward to as my daughter reaches her teenage years, like slamming doors and moodiness and *gasp* boys.
But it’s instilling both a healthy body AND a healthy body image in her that I worry the most about.
I was chubby as an early teen, which I blame mostly on genetics, but also on the fact that I was pretty sedentary. I took piano lessons. I liked to watch sports rather than partake in them. Also, with four working parents, my siblings and I ate a lot of frozen, microwavable foods. Pizza bagels and frozen waffles. Read: not the wisest of choices.
I was skinny as a late teen, which I blame mostly on some dabbling into the world of disordered eating. There were times that I drank my meals. It’s amazing how a person can survive on nothing but frappucinos andÂ cappuccinos. I joined a gym and worked out in excess.
I am now, at 32, just finally learning to sort of, maybe, almost own my body. I exercise, but not enough. I eat pretty well, but not well enough. I like the way I look, but not always.Â I wonder what sort of example I am setting for my girls.
I try to explain the importance of activity. The girls both take swimming lessons and they take a hip hop class once a week. We have a trampoline in our backyard. I am constantly encouraging them to make up dances in the basement or to jump on trampoline instead of sitting in front of the tv. But are they watching me? I spend a lot of time lounging in front of the television or working on the computer. I haven’t once gotten on the trampoline.
I try to explain the importance of eating right. My girls are eaters by nature, and I am constantly offering fruits, vegetables, nuts, cheese, yogurt. We eat lots of really great meals that include good mixes of lean meats, carbs and lots of green vegetables. And they get it. They get that those foods are better for them than, say, donuts. But are they watching me? Because I don’t make the wisest of food choices all the time. Heck, I love donuts. And I eat them.
I try to explain the important of loving their bodies. When Emily makes comments about how her tummy is big or how her thighs aren’t as skinny as someone else’s, I explain to her that every single person on this planet was born with a different kind of body type. And as long as she’s eating right and exercising, her body is perfect. But is she watching me? Because I stand in front of the mirror and suck in my gut and change a million times and whine about my thighs rubbing together.
I hope they are not watching me.
I hope they are doing as I say, not as I do.