A letter to my daughters, and any other younger versions of myself out there:
I know you are young. You are going to swimming lessons, and making mud pies with your cousins under the walnut trees. You are jumping on the trampoline and inventing new ballet dances to perform in the living room. Your bodies are small, strong, and beautiful. Your arms and legs do wonderful things. Your heart pumps and your lungs fill up to bring your muscles the oxygen they need to run faster faster faster. This is what your body does fantastically well. This is your young glory, my darlings.
I see the question mark hanging above your head, even now, from time to time: “Am I pretty?” You pull yourself up on the stool beside me and pop your head beside mine as I brush my hair in the morning. My sweetheart, your body looks just like mine. I had those same inquisitive big eyes at your age. Your body looks just like Daddy’s: the way you throw your head back and smile opened-mouth when he tickles you. That’s his smile. Even your baby teeth look like his in his young pictures.
Times are, I get out of the shower, to find a little face looking me over, considering all the bare skin she sees. My first response is to cover up, overcome by the vulnerability, the sheer nudity of the moment. But then I realize that this is a time for teaching and learning. A little hand reaches up and smoothes my thigh. She spends her time charting my map with her eyes, noting the lines and curves and proportions. She asks questions about parts that are different than hers. I feel a rush of privalege that I, her mother, am the first person to introduce her to the grown-up body of a woman. I tell her that she will have the same parts when she grows to be a woman. I remember watching my own mother dress, and getting a glimpse into my own body’s future. It actually wasn’t too far off. Which is why I can say with reasonable assurance, that girls, your body will look just like mine.
There will come a time in adolescence that you will bloom, and wilt, all at the same time. Your mind will turn against you, shredding your self-image with criticism about your body. But please remember: this battle is waged largely in your brain. Remember who you are, even as you are discovering who you will become. You are my daughters. You are Daddy’s daughers. You are the beloved grandchildren to Grandma, Papa, and YiaYia. Your bodies look just like ours. Your strong muscles, your flexible joints, your wavy hair, your little nose, your narrow feet… they all echo our own. Our common traits stand in solidarity with your own – a silent support of familial features, that you belong to us, and in turn, we belong to you.
Pretty is what we say it is. Simple as that. It is my job to teach you to care well for your body, to feed and fuel it so that it can do the things that thrill your heart. Its my job to model what fun it is to be a woman: to play with makeup, and learn the finer things of femininity. And just as much how to posess the endurance to climb a rock and hike a mountain.
You are your own person, but your body will always bear the marks of your heritage.
Your body will change. Your body will always change. When you carry a child, your body will look just like mine does currently. You get to see how my body ripens and swells like a fruit in season. Look and learn girls. Watch how a woman’s body is designed: to carry and nurse a baby. Watch how I eventually train my stomach muscles back into place. Watch how I look as a thirty-something woman. This mom-body will be yours someday. It is one of the highest honors. The stretch marks may come. The extra fat may come. The new shape will come from expanding and contracting with 3 consecutive babies. It is part of a woman’s body with a family. I have always wanted a family, and now I have one: the proof of which is in my very body. Isn’t that wonderful?
So be comforted, my girls. You are beautiful. Your body is beautiful because it is a part of you, and YOU are so very very loved. My mom-body is beautiful because I am loved: by myself, by my husband, and by my family. You belong. And you have a solid foundation from which to bloom. You are a girl. You will become a woman. As much as your brain will try to convince you otherwise in your teenage years, there really is nothing wrong with you. Your body looks just like mine. And I have all the same parts as every other woman out there. We all have eyes, feet, breasts, hips, bones, muscles, lips, and wombs.
Girls, our bodies all look just like each other.