Friday, May 18, 2007

A Three-Year-Old's Body Image

Last night J broke my heart.

I had taken her out of the bathtub and she was wrapped up in a towel on my lap, looking down as I brushed her hair. "Mommy, why my belly like a baby?"

"What do you mean?" I really had no idea what her question meant or where it came from.

J was poking her belly as she replied, "When will it go in?"

I really couldn't figure out what she was talking about. The questions seemed to come out of nowhere. Trying to get more information out her, I asked, "Can you show me what you mean?"

At that she sucked her belly in and asked again, "When will it be flat and not stick out like a baby?"

My three-year-old daughter is expressing disatisfaction with her body. How is that possible? Where do those thoughts come from? I was anorexic for about five years growing up - I'm hyper-aware of the different things that a mom can do that might trigger unhealthy thoughts in their daughters. She doesn't watch commercial tv - I don't think she's really seen that many images of models or teen actresses. I don't talk about losing weight; I talk about trying to eat healthy. I NEVER express disatisfaction with my own body in front of her. And somehow she still picked up that her body is still round with a little baby fat.

As shocked as I was when I finally realized what J was asking, I knew I had to respond. I wrapped the towel more tightly around her in a hug and whispered, "But J, your body is perfect just the way it is. Your body is the perfect J body. When you get older it will change some, but right now it is exactly the way it is supposed to be. You're beautful."

Within minutes of our deep, heartfelt conversation my J was streaking through the upstairs, clearly not concerned about her "baby belly" while running naked through the boys' room.

I will do everything I can to keep her feeling that carefree about her body.

1 comment:

Domestic Goddess said...

She is not dissatisfied, she is curious. She is a smart little cookie and knows her body is different than other people's. Don't panic, but be aware. You did the right thing!
I really think you just panicked because YOU had a past with body image. Make sure you don't project that on her (which , I know you won't do purposefully).