Camille sighs and looks up at me from her chair at the table. "I'm worried." she says. "I keep over-eating." H looks at me with one of those looks. The looks that convey meaning. I have to turn away before I can answer. When you have children your words too often come back to haunt you literally. I am not sure how to answer. Camille does not over eat. She's the only child I know who will stop eating a candy bar midway through because she's full. But it is apparent that she has a new thing to add to "the stuff that makes me anxious" list. And this thing came from me. It's my own anxiety being manifested in the body, the very thin body, of my eight year old.
The day before Piper had lifted her shirt up, and stuck out her belly asking me "Is my belly too big Mama?"
I am shamed. My own bad body image is shaping the bodies of my beautiful little girls. I thought I had modified my talk. I had worked hard at trying to not insult my body in front of them but obviously I have failed. It is so easy for people to lecture me that I have to love my body for the sake of my girls. I want to shake them and cry out "Of course I know this! I studied theory too. I am a women's studies minor. I know these things." But how do you eradicated a life's worth of body hate? How do you erase the cultural influence of a lifetime? How do you teach people to eat when your own relationship with food is dysfunctional and unhealthy?
But here are my beautiful girls already worrying about their weight. And I know it's going to take more than just not talking trash about my body in front of them. I know that somehow I have to push past the self hate into some kind of place where I love this flesh. I have to figure out a way to capture those moments when I revel in this body that grew and birthed babies with such ease. This body that loves to move. That loves to hold little bodies against it. This body that has nourished and feed the tiny beings that orbit it. There is so much to love. And yet I spend so much time hating it. Trying to change it.
"You're beautiful!" I tell the girls again and again. "You have to eat with love and to be strong." Perhaps if I tell them again and again, not only will they start to believe it but so will I.