January 15, 2016
One of the sweet joys I have as the mother of a ten-year-old boy is that my son still likes me to tuck him in. We barely fit in his twin sized bed, but he talks to me about his day and we ask each other questions by the light of his Minecraft torch light.
A couple of nights ago, he told me about his plan to lose some weight. I dismissed the topic and told him he simply needs to eat less junk food, which is 100% true. (The boy can inhale a can of Pringles in seconds.)
But he continued. He said he wanted his stomach to be smaller; he said he wasn’t skinny enough.
OK. Hold the phone. It’s time for me to get up, out of bed, and shift this schematic pattern. But first, a mental marathon in the time it takes to do a half sit-up and get off the mattress: How is my son, over whom I exercise full iPad control so as to eliminate much of the societal pressures and inane hyper-high goals we impress through ads, asking me about the skinniness of his anything? Have I checked too many nutritional labels recently? Do I absentmindedly speak about my own body negative view of myself in front of him? Have I accidentally broken a small part of his life again?! WHY DO I KEEP RUINING HIS LIFE?!
“Look at you,” he says as I stand up. “You have a skinny stomach.”
Incredulous, I lift up my t-shirt over my navel and pull my too-high yoga pants down a bit so he can see all of my stomach. This region is my least favorite part of myself, and it has been for the majority of my life.
“This,” I say—pointing at my belly—“is not a super skinny stomach. Do you see these marks all over? These are from before you were born.”
“From when I was in your tummy?” he asks.
“Yes. I didn’t have quite enough room, so my stomach stretched when you were in there. Do you see how it isn’t flat and it looks a little like a deflated balloon? Maybe an old raisin?”
He nods, smiling a bit.
“Well, it’s not super skinny, but you know what? I got you out of this, and you’re all the best parts of me. I don’t have a flat stomach, and I don’t care. Being skinny has never won me any awards or helped me get any jobs.” Somehow it’s easy to lie to myself about my body image when I’m lying to my child. Wow, a new low.
He’s looking slightly intrigued but still not won over.
“What matters is what you have in here”—I point to his head—“and in here”—I point to his heart. “These are the parts that take you places.”
Alright! My Pinterest aphorisms are flowing freely now—you’ve got this, mama!
“Your belly can fill you up, and your core muscles can help you do lots of things, but you’re just a boy. You’re growing. And I don’t want to hear any more of this ‘I want to look like whatever’ business. Because you, my son, are fantastic.” Time for tickles because I’m out of cliches and meme phrases.
He full smiles. Finally. No halfsies.
We talk a bit longer before I decide he needs to get some sleep, and, frankly, I’m ready to get out of the possibility of ruining what I feel is a Crowning Achievement Parent Moment.
Now that I’ve got that covered, it’s time to work on the How To Take Your Own Damn Advice part.