Mommy Has a Squishy Tummy

A few weeks ago while I was reading with my kids, my five-year-old son scooted close to me and told me I had a very squishy tummy.

I stopped reading.

Okay, I frantically thought, I’m a modern woman. Obviously my tummy is squishy and I should be okay with this. There’s a life-lesson for my son I need to be teaching here. One that conveys healthy body image. Or something. I know I should say something.

But the life-lessons weren’t coming to me. All the articles and talks with friends. All those words of wisdom and desire to raise boys who didn’t objectify women. They went out the window. I felt I needed to say something to him, but all the possible words felt insincere.

What I did feel was my stomach tighten, as if a deep inhale could reduce the squish. And then I kept reading.

Following this squishy tummy episode, I realized it had been a while since I had taken stock of, and perhaps confronted, some realities about my own body image.

I’m at a point in life where pondering my physical appearance ranks about #457 on the list of things to think about. For instance, “can I wear this pair of jeans a fifth day in a row?” and “there’s no milk or bread in the house, can I still go one more day without a grocery run?” rank higher than pondering physical appearance on my list. Most days pass without more than a glance in the mirror.

But this moment with my son confirmed the presence of long-lasting  insecurities. I had tucked away these insecurities when I became a mother. Filed them away somewhere to be sorted out at a later date. It wasn’t that I had been liberated from these negative thoughts, I just put them on hold. And when I unintentionally stumble upon #457, the outcome is rarely positive. It’s one that still evokes feelings of inadequacy, criticism and self-depreciation.   

Perhaps you can relate.

So how am I to teach my children about healthy body image when I still struggle?

The answer was sitting right beside me. I wasn’t going to teach my children. My children were going to teach me.

My son had tried to teach me something that day while we were reading. And I missed it. The negative connotation I have with “squish” had resonated so strongly with me that the manner in which it was uttered by my boy was utterly lost.

So let me retell this story, completely this time. Let me put aside any insecurities and knee-jerk reactions. Let me share this as my son intended it.

squishy-tummy

A few weeks ago, I was reading with my kids. My three kids, five-years and younger. The children I have born and given so much of my body and soul to care for. As a page turned of a much-loved story, my oldest son nestled close to me, and with a contented sigh, as if almost unconsciously done, said I had a very squishy tummy.

That moment was not a criticism or tease. That moment for him meant comfort and security. It meant contentment and rest. It meant mother and home. As he felt his little body enveloped by the body that had loved him into existence, he felt happy. He liked the way he could so comfortably nestle into his mommy and he spoke that feeling into existence.

Children do not need lessons from adults on healthy body image. There was nothing he needed to learn from me.  Adults need to learn from their children.

Ask children about our bodies and what will we learn?

Children will tell us that bodies are for play, and love and exploration.

They will tell us skin is sticky and soft, occasionally boo-booed and in need of a kiss.

Fingers and toes are for feeling cool mud and warm sand.

Legs are to carry us to where we wish to go.

Arms are for reaching, even if what we desire seems beyond our grasp.

Faces are to be used in reckless expression.

And tummies are for food and belly laughs. They are often best squishy, especially when belonging to their mommies.

Having kids can teach us so much about our bodies. What have you learned about your body after having children?

19 thoughts on “Mommy Has a Squishy Tummy

  1. What a sweet perspective. It’s hard to remember, sometimes, that children mean things so innocently. We are somewhat conditioned to take things personally, but like you say, they usually mean things endearingly.

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  2. My first pregnancy cured me of a decades-long eating disorder (although I’m sure finally feeling unconditionally loved by my husband played a huge part as well). My nearly lifelong notion of my body being gross and imperfect was completely turned on it’s head as I watched my belly swell with the miracle of life growing inside. It went from something to be despised to something in which I was completely in awe. I’ve never looked back and really rarely think about my body other than in a sense of grateful utilitarianism.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing your beautiful and hard-won experience toward healing. I know the sharing of your story will give hope to others who are facing the struggles you have overcome (with help from your first sweet baby). And “grateful utilitarianism” – brilliant phrase – well done!

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  3. This made me tear up. Especially your rewrite. Kids can be honest, but RARELY is it meant as hurtful! I love that he sees you as a place of security and squish as a good thing!

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  4. My daughter has poked my stomach and said it was squishy before. At first it was shocking, but she’s barely 4 and has no idea about body image, just that well my belly is a bit squishy. I told her that is what happens when you have a baby (i had just given birth to her brother)/

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  5. Yes, I have learned from my kids. Out of 4 my son the last one also let me know my tummy was squishy. He obviously didn’t know it was squishy before he came along. It’s not like he knew me to have something better, lol. At this point though I’m teaching my oldest daughter how happy it makes her momma to fit (ever so snuggly) into the jeans she’s getting rid of!

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  6. Love this and totally agree I have not been thinking about it the right way either. Now my daughter is 4 and my son is 8 I am aware that often I am getting changed while they are playing and are watching how I look at myself in the mirror. Well just generally checking that the squishiness is tucked in! But I need to make sure I don’t portray that to them. It is true, they see things very differently and you have explained it so well.

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