Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Bootiful bodies

Tuesdays at Two Writing Teachers!
"Mommy's body's OUT!!!" As I start to change into my running clothes, M&M throws her arms into the air and charges across the room towards me, a flailing windmill of delight.

My mind flashes back to before I had her, when I used to laugh at stories of moms complaining they couldn't even go to the bathroom alone, wondering if that was really true. It is, of course, but it turns out that having a small person put her hands on your knees and stare up at you while you pee (even if she announces "Mommy's peeing in the potty!" in a public restroom) is much more cute than annoying, at least when the small person is the sweet, perfect miracle you grew in your belly.

I crack up as she flings her skinny arms around me, only slightly embarrassed that she is making such a production of what used to be a private activity. Suddenly calm, she strokes my belly and gazes up at me. "It's bootiful!" she softly declares.

I look down, not sure we're seeing the same belly. Freckles, pale skin, too much squishiness and pudge that never goes away, no matter how much I run and work out or how well-toned the rest of my body gets. I love the strength that shows in my arms and legs, which are scrawny enough otherwise that they display my muscles in a way that makes me quite proud, but I'm not a fan of my belly. (And yes, I know, it grew her into a person, but it was already too squishy before that!)

"Thank you, Sweetie!" I kneel down and squeeze her into a big hug, feeling like I'm going to split open and a radiant star is going to burst out of my body. This is important. This is my chance to stop passing on body hatred. "Your body's beautiful, too!" I tug her shirt up and sprinkle kisses all over her belly. I bump her belly with mine. "Look at our beautiful bellies!" Her best-sound-in-the-world giggle tinkles around the room.

"Hey, let's take some selfies with our beautiful bodies!" I want to freeze this moment and remember it forever. Stretching out my arm, I start pushing the white button. "Bootiful bodies! Bootiful bellies!" she squeals.

A minute later, I scroll through the pictures: Her head nestled against my sports bra as she wraps her arms around my belly, cooing and grinning as she squeezes that squishiness I hate into a loving hug. Her proudly posing beside me, rubbing her bare tummy with one hand and patting mine with the other. Her patting my neck, gazing at me and then playfully stretching out a tiny finger to poke my belly button.

I did freeze the moment, but I don't even need the pictures to replay it. Every time I start to look at my belly with less-than-positive thoughts, I hear her little voice again. "It's bootiful!"And just this morning, after several days had passed, she rubbed her belly as I changed her, saying "Bootiful body!" And then she reached for mine again. The other night, as Husband and I held her before bed, she exclaimed, "Mommy's bootiful! Daddy's bootiful too!" and patted both of us.

And I started to believe her.

All she sees is love. She doesn't see that Mommy and Daddy do not exactly look like we stepped out of a fashion magazine. She sees Mommy and Daddy, who love her.

She also loves our hair, face, eyes, teeth... <3
I know that no matter how hard we try to protect her, she will eventually be bombarded with the message that she's not good enough, not pretty enough, not perfect enough. But I refuse to be part of that, and the first step is not sharing the cycle of negative self-talk. So yes, Sweetie, Mommy and Daddy are "bootiful." So are you. So are we all.