Hindsight Parenting: Bubbies and Body Image
Let’s Talk About Beautiful Bubbies!
The other night, my daughter Ila and I were relaxing on the couch watching Rio when she began to press her hand on my left breast (calm down…it was completely covered in pajamas AND a wrap). Now my instinct was to take hold of her hand and firmly say something like, “Stop it, Ila! That isn’t appropriate” because after all…it isn’t. But Hindsight’s voice intervened and whispered that a slicing comment like that might just be one of the reasons that my boys don’t see me as a safe person with which to carry on a conversation. So I gritted my teeth, searched the recesses of my brain that housed a voice of reason and chose to say instead, “Ila, can I ask you why you are doing that with your hand?”
She turned to face me on the couch, blinked and innocently answered, “I am trying to make your bubbies flat…”
Now I will admit that the very unreasonable body dysmorphic voice that I carry around with me went to ALL kinds of places when she said that. Things like “how does she already know that my body or parts of my body don’t fit the all American image of beauty?” OR “Ugh, see even my three year old is beginning to realize that I am a chunk-a-holic!” Oh but wait, there’s more. Reminding myself that it is important as a mom to keep the lines of communication open, I asked, “Why? Why do you want my bubbies (eye roll) flat?”
With the clarity and brutal honesty of a three year old she responded, “Well, because some women don’t have big bubbies like you. Some ladies (and then she named several) have flat bubbies.”
I have to tell you that years of shame and feelings of ugliness quickly seeped into every fiber of me. The damage being done by “well-meaning” family members who did things like leave a “Dear Abby” column on my bed that discussed how difficult it was for overweight women to get a job, or the beaming praise directed at my sisters for how beautiful they looked (even if and sometimes especially when) I was standing right next to them, helped me to develop a lunatic type of thinking that since we all were wearing dresses and theirs were much smaller than mine, small sizes must therefore equal beauty. However, part of this Hindsight journey, actually a very EARLY part of my Hindsight journey was to be sure that that I didn’t pass down my body-hatred neurosis to my daughter. From day one I decided that I’d help her grow into a strong and assured woman; hating her body would not lead her down that path. So, I have always tried extremely hard, to pretend for the sake of her that I didn’t have those feelings about my body, proclaiming as often as I could how all bodies are beautiful, big, tall, short, small, black, white…you get the picture. I was prideful of that and before her comment about large breasts (excuse me—I mean—bubbies) and flat breasts (ehem—bubbies) I thought I was doing a bang up job. But somehow, this thought that flat=better found its way into my daughter’s psyche. Our conversation continued.
“Well,” I said, “The great thing about bubbies is that they can be all kinds of sizes! Big and small or flat; all beautiful.”
“Yeah,” her father chimed in, “I think your mommy is beautiful just the way she is.” (Awww shucks.)
“Ummmm,” Ila said, “well, I am not going to have ‘mommy bubbies’. I am going to have ‘Ila bubbies’.” I asked, “What does that mean?”
“I am going to have flat bubbies. Not ones like (And here she pushed my breasts flat again) yours. I want bubbies like (and here you can insert names of anyone that she knows who happens to have a flat chest. Geez…she DOES notice things doesn’t she?)…”
I dropped the conversation because I had made my point that all sizes were beautiful and Ila made clear what she was thinking and pressing (no pun intended…all right maybe a little) the issue didn’t seem urgent. After all, I had years to help her learn that beauty comes from within…and of course (you KNEW it was coming) that is where Hindsight stepped in and whispered, “How are you going to help her believe that if you don’t believe it yourself?” And yet again, he was right.
That night, after putting Ila to sleep, I began to think that even though my WORDS were always body-positive, my actions may not have been, and that possibly could have been where Ila got this idea that flat is better. Let me explain, as with all toddlers, sometimes Ila will wander into my room when I am getting dressed and what is it that she quite often might see? Well to be perfectly and maybe TOO honest, she will usually see me squeezed into some kind of SPANX get up to “FLATTEN” me out before slipping my clothes over the top. Very rarely do I ever wear things that show off my curves (that I am slowly in the process of trying to love so that I can walk the talk and talk the walk so to speak). The simple and innocent moments of getting dressed with my little one in the room, may have taught her unintentionally that a body must be all pressed and tight to be ready for the day. Of course, in a nightgown at night, all that pressed Lycra in the hamper, made it so that those natural curves of mine more obvious. Of course this is speculation, I may never know where Ila got the idea that flat=better. I am not sure she even knows. But I do know from so many experiences in my life that actions speak volumes. And so Mommies, whether you have set out like me to purposely teach your daughter to love her body or assume that you naturally do that, we must remember that our words may say one thing but our actions may say another. In order to help our daughters truly believe that we are all beautiful we must truly believe that ourselves. I know I didn’t, maybe I still don’t, but I am willing to find the beauty within. I am willing to try and change years of erroneous thoughts in order to make sure that Ila will never fall victim to the feeling of being less-than. So dear readers, I am here to announce that starting today, I am on a diet—A Spanx diet that is–after all, who would want to flatten out all these curves?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, and Appleseed. Logan’s previous column for Hilltown Families, Snakes and Snails: Teenage Boys Tales ran bi-monthly from June 2010-Feb. 2011, sharing stories of her first time around as a parent of two teenage boys. — Check out Hindsight Parenting: Raising Kids the Second Time Around every first and third Tuesday of the month.
[Photo credit: (ccl) Travis S.]