I’ve spent the first few days of summer in a twisted mess of emotion. On one hand I am marveling at my tween girl who is so clearly happy and in love with who she is. She adores her bathing suit and thinks she looks quite divine in everything she wears. She is right of course, she does look near perfect no matter her dress.
I on the other hand I am in a hate-affair with my body. I feel fat and saggy and old and am quite content to forgo worrying about tan lines in favor of keeping myself as covered as possible while on the beach.
I am bordering on obsessed with how bad I look lately and yet I’m still not doing enough to change it. I sit in awe of the vibrance and beauty of the little body I watch dancing in the sand and I wonder, when did I lose that girl? How do I keep my daughter from losing her too?
Somewhere along the line, my strong athlete’s body that I never appreciated enough became grossly overweight and out of shape. It wasn’t an accident, but it happened slowly so I didn’t see it until it seemed too late. Over the years, I’ve gone through every range of emotion from mourning to anger to acceptance. At times on the spectrum I’ve even whipped myself back into shape. But it always comes back to this moment; the one where I realize I hate the way I look and I’m not sure how to change-for good.
You’d think the fear of damaging my daughter would be enough, and it was for a while. For a while I ate healthy and really worked on my relationship with food and exercise so that I didn’t pass on any of my neuroses to her. I still use language like healthy and fit instead of good or skinny. I don’t want her to ever feel bad for wanting good food. I want her to want to eat so that her body is nourished and exercise because she loves it. I don’t want her to fear food, hate working out or think thin is the ultimate goal.
She’s built like me. Even at her peak, she’ll be broad shouldered and ample bosomed and long of leg. The truth is, when that is all in shape, it is quite a sight. I know, I used to see it in the mirror and I am sure now that I didn’t appreciate it enough then. I want her to marvel in her reflection and respect it enough to never let it go. I want her to learn to treat herself well now, so that she doesn’t have to undo the mistreatment later. It is so much harder then.
How do I do it? How do I teach her not to be like me when I still haven’t figured out not to be like me? How do I teach her to eat well, exercise and love doing both if I can’t teach her by example? Will I fail her? Will I continue to fail myself?
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.