When my daughter was a baby, she was fat. And I don’t mean, chubby, I mean good, old fashioned, wearing 24 month clothes at 9 months old, kind of fat. She was glorious. During that time, I had a lot of well-intentioned parents assure me that she would thin out.
“Don’t worry,” a friend said gently, “my sister was fat and now she’s really thin.”
As if when looking at my child all I could see was a meaningless societal standard of beauty as opposed to the adorable, smart, happy little baby before me.
I’m not going to tell you what my daughter looks like now. Because it doesn’t matter. Because even if the doctors were concerned and Michelle Obama was knocking on my door to stage an intervention, I would never tell my child to lose weight. I will talk about being healthy, I will talk about being strong, but I will never, ever tell her to change the way she looks.
On Talk of Iowa, Iowa State counseling psychologist, Taylor Locker, noted, “Children as young as first grade or kindergarten want to be on diets, want to be thinner, or believe that they are too heavy or too fat. [...] At least by first grade, children are starting to notice their body size.”
This isn’t what I want for my children. It’s not what I want for me. Of course, children have to notice eventually, that’s the world we live in. But before that, before they begin to feel uncomfortable in their own skin, before they start staring in the mirror and wishing they could magic themselves away into another body, I want my children to always know that they are loved exactly how they are. Even if they smoke. Even if they knock over a liquor store. Even if they are fat. Even if they don’t like queso. I don’t want my children to change. I never want them to be more (or less) than what they are.
I’ve spent the better part of my adulthood and childhood desperately wishing I was prettier, thinner, more athletic, less brunette, less socially awkward. I think of all the time I’ve wasted fighting against my body instead of dwelling in it. There is also the time I’ve wasted trying to be something other than what I am—a loud mouthed, kind of pudgy, imperfect white lady.
I don’t want that for my kids. I don’t want them to struggle to come to terms with who they are. I don’t want them to waste time with self-loathing. There is only so much of their journey I can control, and I’m sure they will have to find their own way. But for now, I want to be their compass, pointing them the way toward love. But I have to calibrate myself first—I have to check the way I talk about how I work out, how I eat and how I dress. I want to model healthy and active and acceptance.
Because, besides keeping our children alive and warm, that’s our first job as parents to model an unconditional love. A love that meets them where they are as chubby little babies and deeply flawed adults. I don’t know who my kids will be—fat, thin, mean, nice, smart, in jail—but I do know I will love them, not based on what they could be or will be, but based on who they are in that moment.
The people that my much-abused body created—a body that deserves some appreciation.