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I saw a magazine laying on the table of a hospital waiting room as I walked by, and I recognized it pretty quickly as one I used to read some thirty years ago. Before I knew it my own daughters would be old enough to pour through the pages of fashion magazines, and as I thought back to my own interactions with the likes of YM, Vogue, and Seventeen I hoped my daughters would have a stronger self-worth than I did back then.
I remember staring at the glossy pages of my favorite read and eyeing the glistening cleavage on the young model on the page, envying the slope of her breasts as they played peekaboo with the unbuttoned oxford tied lazily over cutoff denim shorts. I would look back at the mirror where my reflection held copycat attire, except for the perky bosom. My flat chest would stare back at me, and I would feel as deflated as it looked.
My mom bought me my first Miracle Bra. Remember those? Automatic boobies! I can also remember running around frantically in seventh grade, searching for my one, cherished, padded brassiere before my boyfriend came over and discovered I wasn’t the budding B cup my padded bra conveyed.
“Where did I take that thing off at?!!”
I can remember my mother taping my chest and drawing me a cleavage to match the padding in my formal dresses during pageant time. I can remember us girls in school comparing our weight at cheerleading practice. I was next to the skinniest one, and it felt good. I finally felt like maybe I measured up. By measuring down. Which is kinda weird, I know. I remember when I got chubby my mom let me know, and when I lost weight she was quick to compliment me. She was always so proud of my tiny figure, and she loved showing me off to her friends at work, which made me smile. It still does. She wasn’t trying to instill any negative thoughts in me, this I know, but that’s what happened. It just kinda worked right along with what the magazines said was pretty.
I drink Diet Coke nowadays, and I’ve always drank Diet Coke. It’s the only soda that existed in my home growing up. I can remember seeing a jar of Dexatrim on top of the refrigerator, and a cartoon drawing of a large woman in a bikini on a scale on the fridge door reminding anyone who opened it to watch what they ate. My mom was on a diet for as long as I can remember. Again, I don’t think she was trying to instill a negative mindset in me. It just happens to be a consequence of watching the person you love more than anything in the world be on a perpetual diet.
Yesterday was my eldest daughter’s ninth birthday party. I had already decided I would not be having cake. I’ve always been able to stay small, but a simple weight gain of seven pounds and I start to feel miserable about it. I can’t help it, and even as much as I’ve grown spiritually or matured with age, if I’m not in my comfort zone of weight, I feel horrible.
For the past 3-4 months I had been telling myself it was the birth control pills I started taking at the beginning of the year, or that it was the new normal, being in my forties and all. I told myself I was happy with who I was. And I was! I’ve never felt more self-confident and content in my life. But still, when you’ve lived forty-two years with the weight that makes you feel the best, nothing
less more will do. So, after pushing it off since the holidays ended, I was finally on a diet. Sigh.
One thing I didn’t do, though. I didn’t talk about it around my daughters. If we were throwing out the processed food and going organic for the good of the family, then yes, we all had the conversation. But if Momma was counting carbs to fit better in her favorite denim capris, I kept that close to the cuff, or rather the waistband, I guess you could say. I didn’t want them even knowing what a diet was!
So back to cake. I had decided no cake! I was 8 days into Ketosis, and after my bread withdrawals I didn’t want to wreck my progress. I was an all or nothing kinda gal, and I was all in on shedding this middle age muffin on my midsection. No cake!
The party couldn’t have been more perfect. I mean, it wasn’t perfect. It was a Dollar Tree decorated jumble of pink and flowers, but the point was, she loved it. She freaking loved it! Her eyes wide, her smile even wider. She blushed with excitement and couldn’t stop saying, “This is awesome! It’s even better than I imagined it would be!”
She had beamed at the Baskin Robbins cake, the smallest they made, and certainly not the stuff Instagram promotes or Pinterest is made of. It was just a plain ole cake, but she couldn’t stop smiling. It had cost about twenty bucks, but she couldn’t stop smiling. She giggled with glee as her dad prepared to make the first cut, and she smiled even wider as he divvied out slices around the table. I knew it then. I knew I’d eat cake. I had to.
I didn’t want the carbohydrates, but even more I didn’t want the conversation. I didn’t want her asking why I wasn’t having cake. They say truth is stranger than fiction, but I guess it’s harder too. I didn’t want to tell my innocent, precious girl, “Your mom doesn’t always like herself. So that’s why I’m not eating your birthday cake.”
The best days I have, the ones where I love myself, the ones where I feel beautiful and amazing, that’s what I want for my daughters. I want them to be healthy, sure, but I don’t want them judging themselves by society’s standards. I don’t want them to value their worth by their waist size. I don’t want them comparing themselves to anyone else. I don’t want them wishing they could be more. So many days I wish I could turn back time and erase the breast implants I got in my twenties, so I never have to tell them how bad I felt I needed a big bust to be beautiful.
I want my daughters to realize beauty is more than skin deep, that the skin doesn’t even matter. I want them to age gracefully, live life fully, and take the best parts of me into their future. I don’t want to raise them on scales or hearing me berate myself.
I want my daughters to focus on the things that really matter. I want to cultivate kindness, not self-absorption. More importantly, I want them to view others through the right lenses, not judging people by what they wear, how they appear. I want them to know they can’t judge a book by its cover, and they can only judge themselves by the standard set by their Heavenly Father.
My daughters need to understand they’re precious, set apart, made unique, and I sure don’t want them thinking they need to change for anybody. I don’t always get it right for myself, but I want better for my girls. I want them to experience a healthier view than the one I’ve always had, or even the one that tries to assault me now. I want them to see themselves like Jesus sees them, and to see others the same.
I want to raise daughters who can be proud of their flat chest, cause let’s face it, genetics ain’t in their favor for anything else. I want to raise daughters who are healthy, but can enjoy some cake and ice cream without counting the calories or beating themselves up. I want to raise daughters who know they’re worth more than what Hollywood tries to sell them or what a magazine may try to tell them. I want to raise daughters who know their worth.
When they’re older perhaps I can share my struggles with them, but while they are young and impressionable I will speak life. I’ll speak confidence, and I’ll model self-love for them to see. I won’t call myself fat or use words like diet. I won’t frown at the mirror or refuse to take a picture with them in my bathing suit. They can’t see me being unhappy with me because right now I’m the woman they look up to as how they want to be. And me… I want them to be happy with who God made them to be.
So, I’ll eat the cake, and I’ll play in the dirt. I’ll let them dress themselves in clothes that don’t match if it makes them feel pretty. We’ll laugh, play, act silly, dress comfy, and love life, ourselves, and others because when it comes right down to it, isn’t that what it’s all about?