“Mummy, may I kiss your tummy?” my 3 year-old asked me two days ago. He had loved to do this during my entire pregnancy with his baby brother; now that I had given birth to our second son four weeks ago, I wondered why he would still like to do this.
“Darling, there’s no baby inside my tummy anymore…,” I began. My son gazed at me with his mummy-I-know-that look. Sure, he knew. So I let him kiss my tummy, smiled and gave him a big thank-you hug.
Knowing how devastating, energy consuming and lonely body loathing can feel, I want my sons to build and sustain a healthy relationship to their bodies. There certainly are many ways to get there, and I am constantly learning how to do this myself, but one thing I know: this won’t work if we as parents do not lead by example. Even small gestures like the one above count.
My body-positive journey has helped me to embrace myself. So instead of freaking out about my wobbly, stretch-marked post-baby belly when my son wanted to kiss it, I gratefully acknowledged that my tummy had grown and birthed two amazing kids and that it DESERVED being treated in a loving, respectable manner, no matter how it looked. I do not have to love everything about me, but I can still accept it and be grateful for it.
In the above situation, I did not speak out any of those things because I wanted to reassure my son that kissing my tummy was a natural thing to do and did not have to be justified or in any way discussed (especially when he simply wanted to show his love).
While it is certainly imperative to avoid negative body talk in front of our kids, sometimes it may be wise to not make appearance “a thing” at all and instead focus on things that really matter: how happy, healthy, loved and strong we feel.
In my attempt to raise body positive kids, I do tend to comment on the amazing things his or someone else’s body can do; for instance, “Look how strong your arms are! They can hold your baby brother!”
On a slightly different note, I am also trying to connect this to intuitive, mindful eating habits. This entails maintaining their natural feeling of when they are hungry and when they are full (kids still have that!), and, amongst all food choices they have (including sweets), helping them understand what kind of food gives them good energy, helps them grow, run faster, etc. and what might be “soul food”, which is absolutely okay, too, but you know…
Finally, motherhood is a beautiful opportunity to learn and embrace ourselves in our individual, wonderfully flawed uniqueness. This can be a real game changer and make life so much better and easier (in other words, do not waste your time and energy worrying about your body)! Whenever in doubt, remember, our kids love us just the way we are, and their love has absolutely ZERO to do with how we look.”
Interested to read more about body positive parenting? Then check out the full post by our academic working group here.