Teaching My Daughter to Love Her Future Body

I was sitting on a toilet, feeling surprised and kind of insulted, when I realized I had an opportunity before me like no other.
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I was sitting on a toilet, feeling surprised and kind of insulted, when I realized I had an opportunity before me like no other.

It began with the need to pee: first my 5-year-old daughter, then me.

As I was sitting on the toilet and she was washing her hands, still without pants, she declared, "Mama, you have fat legs! Not like mine -- look at mine."

She then ran her hand along her twiggy little leg, like Vanna White on some cruel version of Wheel of Fortune.

I looked down at my lumpy pale thighs in comparison, squashed against the porcelain throne's seat like bread dough that refused to rise.

In a flash I was back in the kitchen of the house I grew up in, talking to my own mom.

My mother said some disgusted comment or another about what I was eating, and how one day I'd know what it was like to have hips like hers.

I was befuddled. Already well into my teen years, my hip bones simply protruded from my body at sharp angles, then smoothly dipped towards a flat stomach. I poked at my hips, feeling nothing but skin and bone.

"I don't get it -- how can bones get fat on them?" I was genuinely curious. I looked to her for an answer.

My mom got all flustered and her voice shook. "You wait and see." Then she ran from the kitchen, locking herself in her bedroom.

That scene was twenty years ago, before I truly understood how much my mom hated how her hips looked.

If I had been a more sensitive girl back then, her reaction to my thinness and her desire to be thinner could have made me fear weight gain. Made me think it was normal to be disgusted by my own changing body. Made me believe in one ideal physique, which was not genetically in the cards for me.

I refused to let this conversation end as badly as that one could have.

I took my eyes off my blubbery thigh and looked at my daughter.

"Good job, you're right! There is more fat on my legs than yours. When you become a grown-up, you get all sorts of beautiful curves like this. Isn't that exciting?"

She looked at her little legs, then mine, then back to hers. Then she smiled. "I'm gonna look like you when I'm a growned-up?"

"Yep. And I looked like you when I was 5. It's kind of fun getting to look different when you get older, dontcha think?"

She started hopping excitedly, and replied "Yeah! And I get bigger and older every day, Mama!"

With a smile on her face, she dashed out of the bathroom feeling confident in her current skinny legs, and looking forward to what the meat of Motherhood will do to her hips twenty years from now, leaving her pants and a hopeful mom in her wake.

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