Raising My Daughter To Love Her Body When I’m Still Learning To Love Mine
When I fell pregnant with my first child six years ago, I was relieved when the scan showed that I was having a boy!
Well, because all the things I disliked about my body when I was growing up (things I still struggle with, today) would be considered acceptable for a boy. A girl, on the other hand? Well, a girl may end up going through what I did, and I would always feel guilty about that.
I have really dark hair, as does my sister and my mother, and yet, I’m the only hairy one in the family.
Yay, for me!
“Hairy” can take on many forms, but in reality, all you need to be is slightly hairier than your peers; and what is considered ‘normal’ within society. And you get the label hairy, and all of the insecurities that go with it.
I did everything growing up; bleaching my arms, epilating and waxing my face (being told by a boy that I had sideburns at the age of fourteen, was the start of that) and don’t forget my stomach, too.
Oh, and guess what? I’m a sweater! That’s a whole other lifelong battle there, too I’m painting a great image here, aren’t I? Still… somebody married me!
At the age of thirty-eight, I still feel the need to remove “excess” hair; and I never wear my hair tied up, because it makes me feel exposed. Even now, there’s still a part of me that wants to hide. Although my arms don’t tend to bother me these days, I am still working through a backlog of issues left over from my youth.
Does it make sense why I was so happy about having a boy, now? Hairiness (and even sweatiness, to some extent) is socially acceptable for a boy. As such, I knew that I wouldn’t feel so guilty if my son inherited any of the things that plagued me during my teenage years.
Then along comes baby number two.
Second time around, and I’m blessed with a little girl. So naturally, all of my fears have come tumbling back out.
The main thought that goes around my mind is, “What if she goes through what I went through, and it’s all because of me?”
All any parent wants is for their children to be happy. For them to make friends and live their lives without being hurt by others. I know that we can’t shield them from everything; but I also know exactly how relentless, cruel and thoughtless children can be at times. Especially in their younger years, when they aren’t even aware that they are being hurtful.
I’ve got to tell you. I. Am. Scared.
However, I am also very aware of the fact that these are my issues, not hers.
Hopefully, they never will become her issues. Hopefully, the genetics that created a life-long stigma for me, will end with me. I do hope so.
However, the silver lining for my daughter, is that if she does go through it, then at least I will be able to relate to her and help. I’ll know that her fears are real, and I will never dismiss them as being trivial. Her journey doesn’t need to be the same as mine, and the negativity can end with me.
I was the only person that struggled with these issues in my family. So there wasn’t anyone that understood how it made me feel, and how debilitating it actually was at times.
To this day, I still have to think about what clothes I wear because of sweating, and I would absolutely not wear a bikini on holiday without an element of de-fuzzing taking place first. Having said that, I did embrace my “mum tum” and stretch marks on a family trip last year, which was actually a big step towards body positivity for me.
Still, in the meantime, I’m well aware that the work needs to start with me. Most body insecurities are learned. You don’t know that you’re a little different to other people until they tell you. You don’t know that society will see you as being abnormal until you’re hit by images of what is considered to be normal.
Ultimately, it’s my responsibility to make sure that my issues remain just that—mine.
If my children point out my arm hair—which at some point they will, because kids have an embarrassing habit of saying what they see—then it’s up to me to respond positively; even if it hurts me. Because no doubt they’ll do it in the middle of the supermarket when everyone will hear and stare.
I feel it coming and I feel like it will be my defining moment. How I act in that situation could set the scene, not just for my daughter, but for my son too.
Thankfully, they are preparing me for this challenge pretty much every day; when they poke and prod at my, “cosy,” “squishy” and, “wobbly” belly. So, ultimately… I think I’ve got this.