My daughter and I were talking last night. I was brushing her hair, and she said, "I just don't know why everyone adores me."
First of all, because you say stuff like that. It is damn adorable. I said, "Because you're so adorable." Cutest exchange ever? Maybe.
Then she turned to me and asked, "Did you look like me when you were little?"
I told her that I did. In fact, some pictures of her look exactly like mine from the same age. She turned around quickly and narrowed her eyes. "Will I look like you when I grow up?"
I told her she might, but she will look like herself. Then she sighed. "I just want to be straight."
(Side note: She does not refer to straight in a sexuality sense. Straight refers to thin bodies.)
I told her that she might grow up to have a straight body, and she might grow up to have a more round body, and either of those are ok because we will love her no matter what.
"But, I just want to be beautiful."
Here's the problem. I want her to value all aspects of herself, not just her beauty. I also don't want her to only see beauty in one narrow shape. And mostly, I don't want her to start having body image issues at the tender age of six. It is a long road in this life to self-acceptance, and to start worrying about it before you can read scares the crap out of me.
Also, we don't shame or elevate body types in my house. I never talk negatively about my body in front of the girls, and I don't do diet talk around them. My husband is affectionate to me and the kids rarely watch television with advertisements. But they do watch Disney movies, so I know they aren't immune to societal images of perfection.
So. I asked her, "Do you think Mommy's not beautiful?"
"You are beautiful Mommy. I just want a straight body."
Ok. Fair enough. I can understand that she has an idea in her head of the person she wants to be. I get that. I told her that she needs to eat healthily and exercise for a healthy body. We also talk about the girls' other great traits more than their physical appearance. We compliment their intelligence, humor, kindness, and generosity often. I hope that gets in.
But this conversation is going to be ongoing. I see a future of changing bodies, clothes that fit oddly, "bad" foods, and judgment. I hope I can talk to her in a way that makes her know that bodies are different and that's just fine. Mostly, I want her to understand her worth is about so much more than her body shape.