Warning: This post is a little more serious than the normal MommiesRun frivolity.
On Tuesday night I was putting the girls to bed and I was wearing a sports bra and shorts. Lexi, the elder twin by one minute and therefore WAY more dramatic, exclaimed, "Mommy, your tummy is so FIT!". For a split second, I was shocked and thrilled that my 6 year old daughter could say something so simple that would make me feel so good. But then she followed it up by saying, "I wish my tummy was fit. It's just fat.". Immediately alarms went off in my head and I got that icky feeling. I mean, have you seen my girls? They are sticks with heads.
I briefly talked to her about the fact that she is not "fat", and that I work hard to maintain some semblance of a fit body. I explained that she is tiny, rarely being above the 50th percentile for weight, and more importantly, she is HEALTHY. She runs and jumps and swims, and she's smart, way too smart for her own good. And my goodness she's beautiful. Oh and sassy. Let's not forget that personality that can charm the pants off of anyone.
Then, to make matters worse, when I came home from work on Wednesday night, Lexi patted my belly and then lifted up her shirt. She whined, "I worked so hard today but my belly still isn't as fit as yours!". I watched as she tried sucking in her tiny tummy, only to sigh in exasperation.
So where did I go wrong? How had I failed my fragile 6 year old daughter? I've always been careful to avoid body shaming. I make sure to tell my girls how beautiful they are and to hug them and kiss them. I let them stretch and do yoga with me. I help them make healthy food choices, yet let them eat what makes them happy. Why is she fretting over a non existent problem like so many little girls do?
The honest answer is that I don't know. I'm afraid if I pester her and keep bringing it up, her dramatic mind is going to make it that much worse. But if I don't discuss it with her, she's going to think it's ok to label herself as "fat". I know there is no right answer in this situation, and I'm fully aware that every child is different. I mean her twin sister could care less about her tummy.
My plan for now is to continue as I have: loving her, hugging her, kissing her, tickling her, and praising her. She'll undoubtedly fight with her sister, or Josh, or me. But I'll still love her and I'll still call her my gorgeous baby with the uncanny ability to make me laugh so hard I cry.
Mommies, please remember our kids are watching our every moves. If we want our kids to love themselves, we have to love OURSELVES. Let your kids see you sweat, let them see you put in the time and effort. Let them join you in your fitness journey. But don't forget that your kids happiness and health should be more important than a flat stomach.
As for Lexi, I don't have a quick fix. I'll definitely be monitoring her for any changes in behavior. But I honestly feel like any change needs to be with me. I will be watching myself for similar actions. Do I complain about my abs or other parts of my body? Do I fuss about making healthy choices? I'm the Mommy, and I'm lucky to have 2 little girls that model themselves after me. It's time I start embracing that.