All parents have their own unique parenting roles. One parent is good at something and fills the gaps where the other parent is lacking. Tim is the official Rough Houser in our family. He can play hard with the kids and has the strength the throw them around like I simply can’t.
One evening he was rough housing with the kids (because in the evening, just before bed, is when the rough housing tends to take place…we need to rethink that) and I heard him say something that stopped me in my tracks. As he was throwing Meghan in the air and tickled her, he said, You’re so skinny! You’re just so skinny! You need to eat more!
Keep in mind, he said this in a light-hearted, joking voice, and didn’t mean any sort of malice. As a man, he had no idea the impact those words can have on a little girl. He was simply marveling at how light she is and how his large hands can practically fit around her tiny waist. She is a thin six year old.
I didn’t say anything to him the first time I heard him say this to Meghan. But the next time they were rough housing and he said something similar, I knew I had to address it. Those words, you’re so skinny! You need to eat more! remind me too much of my childhood and I remember the impact they had on me.
I heard similar sentiments growing up, all the time. People, sometimes people I didn’t even know very well, would comment on my “skinniness” and question if I ate enough. Throughout my childhood I was really thin. It was just a natural, genetic thing and had nothing to do with how much I ate. I didn’t understand that, though. Those words made me self-conscious of my body and question if I was doing something wrong. So much so that I remember setting a New Year’s Resolution at a young age to gain weight.
I know I was within the normal range for both height and weight, but I didn’t feel normal when I heard those comments so often. So much emphasis is put on not commenting on an overweight person, that I think people forget that thin people can feel just as much hurt from comments about their bodies.
As Meghan grows up, I don’t want her to think about her body the way I did. I want her to love and appreciate her body, not obsess over if it has the same curves as other girls’ or is developing at the same rate as other girls’ the way I did. (Any Judy Blume fans out there? I secretly did the “We must, we must, we must increase our bust!” exercises hoping they would help!)
Tim agreed not to comment on Meghan’s body size going forward. There are some things I do want my daughter to know about her body. These are the thoughts I want to fill her mind about her body.
Instead of focusing on what your body looks like, dear Meghan, think about all the things it can do! It can dance with the rhythm, race up the stairs, climb across the monkey bars, ride a bike, and do handstands. You are so lucky to have such an able body.
#2 You should love your body as it is because God gave it to you.
I’m not saying that you should never try to improve how your body looks through fitness. You want to lift weights to get more defined arms? Fine. You want to do crunches in attempt to give your abs definition? Okay. All of that is fine, but don’t ever, ever hate the body God gave you. Every person has a perfect body because it came from God. God doesn’t care if your bottom jiggles or if you have chicken legs. God loves every part of you. And He wants YOU to love every part of you.
It’s hard to see this sometimes in our society. Others will try to tell you differently, but don’t you dare listen. Yes, I want you to take care of your body. I want you to be healthy. But your heart is where your value comes as a person. Who are you, at your core, is what matters. How you treat other people, how you show your love for God, how you develop your mind and use your talents. All of these things are what I hope you will focus on instead of spending precious time thinking about what your body looks like.
If I truly want my daughter to internalize these thoughts, and I do, I need to live them. I won’t say that it’s always easy, but if I am struggling, I won’t let her see that. I will talk about her body in a way that shows its value and marvels at God’s awesome creation. I want her to grow up confident and focused on becoming the best person she can be.