Today my babies are small. Soft doughy thighs and beautiful round bellies. Running through the house with their shirts tucked under their chins screaming “Lala!” (Lucy’s word for belly). Their tummies pushed out with blissful pride.
Today, they are enough. Strong and joyful and satisfied. Secure in their space in the world. All twenty-eight and forty-one pounds of it.
One day, they won’t be.
I could give a great speech about changing that. Creating a better future for my daughters. A more accepting culture. A better definition of beauty.
I could tell you that I’m going to raise them to love themselves, for themselves, by themselves. To validate their own worth, and never surrender to the perception of others.
But that speech would be for me. Not for them. Because they don’t need me on a soapbox, they need me in the trenches.
The reality is that they’re growing up in world stuck in cultural adolescence. Divided. Undecided. Tumultuous and unhinged. While we work to heal it, they’ll still be cat called and fat shamed and belittled by their peers. All while they’re living under my roof.
The bitter reality is that I can’t protect them. I can only prepare them. And teach them to persist. Maybe things will be different for their daughters.
A few weeks ago I was a guest on a podcast where I discussed my own adolescent struggles with disordered eating, anxiety and body dsymorphia. The host of the podcast asked me, what will I do differently as a parent to help protect my daughters?
The answer isn’t easy.
I’ll emphasize their strength. Their power. Their intelligence. I’ll eat ice cream with them and wear my 15 extra pounds of “baby weight” with pride. I won’t apologize for the lines on my thighs.
But it won’t be enough.
So I’ll share with them my own experience. The guilt and the shame and the endless cycle of self loathing and eventual healing.
But it won’t be enough.
It took me 25 years and the birth of my children for me to realize what my body was truly capable of – and how much greater its abilities were than a number on a scale.
You did that for me, Mia. And you reminded me, Lucy.
So I won’t try to force you, my strong, beautiful girls, to feel something you don’t. Or can’t.
I won’t belittle the perceptions that feel true to you, whatever they may be.
What I’ll do is love you, remind you, and wait.
Until you can find your power too.
Until you can feel your worth and trust in it. Nobody can do that for you but you.
So as much as I wish I could protect you from what’s to come, I won’t hold you back by showing you the way. Instead I’ll be with you in the darkness, a hand to hold while you find light within yourselves.
You are both beautifully imperfect beings. You are everything to me, and one day, you will be to you, too.
Until then, I’ll be here. For you, beside you, behind you, beneath you. I will lift you up and I will hold you close. I will love you even when you don’t.
I’ll hold your power for you until you’re ready to own it.
No matter where you go or through what –
– I’ll be waiting.
One thought on “A Message to My Daughters about their Bodies”
Beautifully said Han. I hope that you know that you are the most influential teacher for your daughters. Don’t ever underestimate the power you hold within you as a role model for them. They will grow to be even stronger young women with you and Dan as their parents and the rest of the women that surround them and love them. We are a village to support them – they will never be alone in this journey and neither will you!