There are lots of things that we can do for our children. Their job as children is to try to manipulate us so that they get their needs met. They can’t always articulate what they need like adults can. For instance, instead of saying “I’m hungry,” a 5-year-old might sink to the floor, kick her legs, and whine “get me a snack!” Message received! As a parent I understand that my child wants my attention and feels the need for something. Is a snack what she actually needs? Maybe. It might also be a hug or my attention.
There are lots of things I would like to give to my children. Some of these things include a new bike, bravery, strength, a trip to Great Wolf Lodge (they didn’t pay me to say that, but a friend of mine took her kids and said it is awesome so if any of y’all find a Groupon I would love to know!). I think about what my mother and grandmother gave to me. So much it is impossible to list! The physical confidence that they instilled in me is something that I feel is a gift that they keep giving. My grandmother died two hours after my daughter was born. She had been in hospice care for weeks. During my labor my husband held my phone up so that I could say good-bye to her while my mother was in Florida holding the phone up to my grandmother’s ear. As my mother held my grandmother’s body while her spirit left us, I held a brand new baby girl whose body was full of life and vitality.
As a young woman in college I tried taking a ballet class. I am built more like most modern dancers – with broad shoulders, a prominent clavicle, and powerful legs. My ballet teacher said to me, “most women ballet dancers don’t look like you…you have an interesting body shape.” I still remember having that said to me. Let’s be clear – I am not “hating” on ballet. I have no idea what it is like to be entrenched in the ballet world or what my teacher’s intent was when he said that to me. The point is that I still remember hearing it and I remember what that felt like. It felt like judgement, rejection, and a message that this was not a club that would welcome me. If my body is, in fact, interesting – and I think all bodies are interesting! – then I want to treat it with respect and to nurture its eccentricities and qualities the same way I nurture anything that I love. I want to celebrate what is interesting and keep its value, support it, and feed it from a place of abundance, not from a place of judgement and rejection. My daughter is paying attention to me. She understands my message and I am willing to bet that she will follow. If some day she hears the kind of comment that I heard from my ballet teacher, I bet her response will be “yes, my body is interesting, engaging, strong, and brave and I am proud of it!”
This is something I hope to give to my daughter. Her life inspires me.