“Hannah, You’re so skinny!”
Gasp. I put my glass of wine down in front of me. Looked at my little girl.
This sentence slammed me in the gut. From one new Kindergartner to another. An innocent enough comment, no? Hannah giggled at the comment. Not sure how to react. Confused actually whether it was a compliment or an insult. She looked to me for guidance as to the correct response. “Thank you”? “No I’m not”? “Why”?
And 38 year old mom also was at a loss for words. “So are you”? “No she’s not”? “You’re both perfect”? Nothings seemed right. Because to me, a five year old shouldn’t be noticing the body of another five year old. Or maybe just not commenting on it.
Or, maybe I’m just overthinking. (Surprise, surprise).
And maybe I’m overthinking because from the moment I heard the doctor say, “It’s a girl”, this was what I have spent the most time thinking about. How to be sure she never lives one day with the body image struggles that I dealt with for so much of my life.
I’ve done “all” I can on my part. I never make comments about my own body in front of her. She’ll never hear me call myself ugly or fat. She won’t know if I’m having a bad hair day or “tight jeans” day. I only spend seconds in front of a mirror in her presence. (Although somehow when she looks in the mirror she still turns and looks over her shoulder at her butt… do I do that?). I laugh when she calls me pudgy and tell her that people come in all shapes and sizes and no one is more beautiful than the next. I stress that her smile is what makes her most magnetic and that the more she smiles, the more people will like her.
I’m doing my part.
But now it starts. The messages will be coming from her peers. The schools do a fantastic job educating the kids on diversity. My children are growing up “color blind” with a wonderful mix of race and skin color in the classrooms. I partly chose this town for that very reason. But schools fall short educating on the diversity of body types. Helping kids love themselves and to be blind to the size of the girls next to them.
I don’t want her to start believing skinny is good. Skinny is better. Because it’s not. The Wanting to be skinny instead makes you unhappy. It makes you never be satisified. Always want to look better or different. It makes your eyes drift down to your body in the mirror, instead of at your silky soft gleaming hair. And huge welcoming, warm brown eyes. And make-everyone-melt dimple on your cheek. Wanting to be skinny makes you think twice about enjoying a meal with your friends and instead focus on how FEW bites you can take. Wanting to be skinny overtakes your thoughts. Has you waking up thinking about how long you can go before having your first meal and how many hours you can go before you have your next. It becomes a way to control things in your life that don’t need controlling or aren’t meant to be controlled.
And Being skinny? Certainly does Not make the people who matter like or love you more. It actually can make people like you less. For no reason. And being skinny although lets your clothes fit better and might turn heads, actually can make you dislike yourself. Because of how much you care when you know you shouldn’t.
I know all of this. Because I’ve been there. In some ways, and on some days, I’m still there. I’m uncomfortable preaching to Hannah what I have struggled with so much myself. I’m a hypocrite. One that says being skinny doesn’t matter, but my own brain often can’t convince myself of that fact. I know my words to her are so right. And the way I apply them to myself are so wrong.
Will she see right through me? Will my being thin and seeming not to care in her eyes help her or confuse her later?
Again, I end a post without an ending. Because this is a topic that I don’t believe I’ll ever have an answer for. All I know is that I want to do right by her. Set her the best example I can. And maybe in the process… I’ll start believing it myself.
That skinny is only skin deep. But beauty is at the core.