The First Lesson
My daughter is now three. She turned that sweet age right in the middle of summer. Summertime . . . a time of splash pad fun, ice cream, cold popsicles on hot sunny days, and, you guessed it . . . bathing suits.
This summer I learned a lot about myself as a mother. But first, let me take you back to high school . . . eh. Just remembering some of these moments still has my inner 16-year-old self cringing. I have never been on the extra skinny side, even when I was young enough to have warranted eating as many doughnuts as I pleased. A little extra fluff has always been my sidekick. Spring breaks that entailed marching around in a bikini with all of my friends who clearly were cut from the thin mold never came easy.
But there was one spring break in particular that has forever been seared into the back of my mind. It’s when the term “moo cow” was deemed the most appropriate choice of words by a fellow classmate to yell at me from a high-rise building where other students were hanging out. I had already endured nickname phrases like “wamba boob” simply for developing *ahem* a little earlier than my friends. (Side note: Although I loathed that nickname at the time — hello, young 14-year-old psyche — I came into a place of being thankful that at least I wasn’t a fledgling member of the “IBTC” . . . aka, itty bitty _____ committee. I’ll let you fill in the missing word. Goodness, high school was hard.) But it was the “moo cow” that has stuck with me throughout all of these years. Heavens, I didn’t even have cellulite back then. #bam. Words hurt. They stick with you. They have the power to form your inner thoughts about yourself. It’s true.
The Hardest Lesson
Back to this summer. It was time to don my bathing suit for the first time. I’ve always searched and searched for the perfect suit that is cute, but also totally covers the majority of my flaws. I even contemplated a skirt suit this summer because they seriously are cute, and ultra convenient, and let’s face it . . . modest. I love modesty. But I hate swimsuit shopping. The negative thoughts that have the tendency to swim through my head . . .
Extra cellulite . . .
Don’t they have anything that covers these arm flaps?
Why are there only smalls out here?
Ugh, and there’s the pooch.
Can you feel it? Have you been there?
But something happened this summer in particular. My daughter turned three. She is now literally watching every step I take, and she is listening to every word I say. This summer is when I put those negative thoughts in check. I knew I couldn’t say anything I was thinking out loud if I wanted her to have any semblance of a good self-esteem. The last thing I want is for my daughter to look at herself in the mirror and start seeing flaws. Flaws that are not really there, but made up in a mind that has learned to see them. I am her teacher. Ultimately, it will be my words she hears in her mind, and more is caught than taught.
The Sweetest Lesson
I cannot tell you how many times my daughter looked at me this summer and simply stated, “Mama, you are bweautifwul”. She left no room for me to dwell on negativity. To have my daughter grab my hand and pull me smiling and giggling to go play was stronger than any negative thought I could muster up. In fact, I started to experience more freedom in my own skin because of my daughter. When I simply let go and gave myself permission to enjoy, true freedom started to emerge. Seeing myself through her eyes was quite humbling . . . and worth it . . . because she’s watching. And she doesn’t see “moo cow”. She sees her mama who is currently her Number One (besides Daddy, of course).
Our children have a way to make us deal front and center with who we really are and how we really think about life and about ourselves. And they will learn from our responses. So I have decided that those high school spring break days will no longer have a play in my book. Instead, I will choose to make happy memories and create a healthier inner dialogue . . . because she’s watching. Summertime may be ending, but the lessons this mama has learned will stick with me forever.