Everything I know… (pt. 1)
I’ve got a whole series of thoughts about how becoming a mother has had a huge effect on how I feel about myself and especially my body. They kind of fall into two basic categories: 1) ways in which the physical aspects of motherhood – pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding – changed me, and 2) things I have learned from my children themselves, by observing how they eat, move and treat their bodies, seeing as they don’t have 30+ years of psycho-emotional baggage to contend with. I don’t know how well I’ll do, getting these all written and out, but I’m gonna try.
Everything I know about loving my body, I learned from my kids
I’ve been trying to catch up on blog-reading the past few days, and came across this post from wellroundedtype2. At first I just started to comment, but, as often happens for me, when I found myself starting a third paragraph, I thought I might as well just make it a whole darn post of my own.
A lot of the feelings wellroundedtype2 describes having about her child, I have about my own children.
I know there will come a day when one of their peers tells them that their mother’s body is “unacceptable.” I try not to think about it much, but the fact is, I’m sure it will happen, and probably more than once.
And so, in the meantime, I am doing all I can to encourage my boys to love their bodies, and to at least make a good show of seeming to love my own. It’s not always easy – I’ve had a lot of years’ practice at feeling inadequate and pretending my body just doesn’t much exist as best I can. But I chant, “Fake it ’til you make it,” to myself, and give it a shot anyway.
So about six months ago, when one of my boys developed a fascination with my belly, I squelched my angst about it and took a deep breath and pretended that it was fine. That when he pushed my shirt up, and nudged the top of my pants down a bit to reveal my belly button, I didn’t mind. I focused on my breathing and managed not to flinch when he rubbed his hands all the way out to the sides of my belly, and then when he decided to look at my belly button from way too close up, I managed to pretend my laughter was due to tickling instead of embarrassment.
That first time, I thought, “Okay. He wants to check out my tummy, that’s fine. Because all bodies are fine. Because he loves me and has no idea that somehow my body isn’t supposed to be lovable, and so he loves my body as much as he loves the rest of me. Okay. Fake it ’til you make it. Christ on a cracker, I hope he doesn’t plan to make a habit of this.”
Well, of course, he did decide to make a habit of it. Murphy’s Laws of Parenthood required it. And from that point on, he didn’t go more than a couple days between requests to check out my belly.
Sometimes he’d just rub his face on it, and stick his fingers in my belly button.
Then his brother got in on the action, and sometimes I’d be subjected to a whole series of amateur-league raspberries being blown on my belly. Which was just damn funny, and so I laughed my butt off at that.
By this point, I was no longer faking it as much. I’d kind of gotten used to it, and a lot of the time I just found it really sweet, actually.
Then they started up this game, where they would trace the shapes of various foods on my belly – mostly various fruits and cookies – and pretend that those were all the things in my tummy, regardless of what I’d actually eaten. And by then, it was just a thing, and so I focused on encouraging more talking from them (because talking is a bit of an issue for us these days) and teaching them words and concepts and the like.
And so now? I’m cool with it. Of course we have discussions about how we don’t lift up our clothes in public, and sometimes I’m not feeling up for it and so we save it for another time. But a good portion of the time, it’s just this thing my kids do, and it’s cute. They love my belly. Some kids love their mom’s hair, some kids love to play with their mom’s hands, my kids love my belly.
The funny thing is, the longer it goes on, the more and more I accept my body myself. When I couldn’t keep up with a yoga class a week or so ago, I was cool with it. I said, “Damn, that class kicked my ass,” and that’s all there was too it. I didn’t view it as some kind of proof of my failure as a person, and once upon a time? Oh, I soooo would have.
Even during classes that don’t kick my ass, if there are moves I can’t do? I don’t do them. Or I modify them. But otherwise? I don’t worry about it.
It’s just my body. It does the best it can for me, and I am learning to appreciate that, and not spend so much time pouting about why it can’t be a completely different body than it is. I’m learning to treat it more nicely, and let it call the shots more often than I used to. And I’m also learning that when I do let my body call the shots – when I eat when I’m hungry, stop when I’m full, sleep when I’m tired, move when I’m energetic – I feel better.
A lot of the time I joke about how once they’re old enough to understand what grounding is, my kids are going to be grounded until they’re 30 for all the crazy things they’ve done and the shocks they’ve caused me thus far in their lives.
The truth is, they’ve also taught me a lot. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it weren’t for them. I would still be treating my body with suspicion and contempt, trying to deny its very existence as best I could. I suppose that means I owe them a little bit, too.
Well, maybe they’ll only be grounded until they’re 27, then….