Bikini Beautiful Week: I Wrongly Thought Raising Sons Meant I Wouldn’t Have To Worry About Their Body Image

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This is a Reader Submission –

”Daddy, am I fat?”

Overheard this morning, as I’m upstairs quickly braiding my hair, I look in the mirror. I feel fat today with PMS bloat, I figure this is the best I can do in the 15 minutes I have to get ready before heading out. My 4-year-old is at the table with his routine breakfast. My 9-month-old is in the Pac-n-Play while ”3 Little Kittens” chimes from an electronic toy that is a hand me down from his brother’s baby days.

I hear my husband’s reply, ”No boy you’re so skinny I can practically see through you”! He giggles. Upstairs I remain silent. My mind races, did I say ”fatty baby is killing my arms” or did someone at daycare make fun of him? It’s happened before”¦ Aubrey said I smelled Mommy. I had a bad day because Karen told me my hair looks like a girl’s, but I like long hair. He pronounces it ”Yong hair” and tells me my yong hair is bootifull, and likes to touch it when we lay on the couch reading.

I have two happy, healthy boys whose eyelashes are the envy of any mascara commercial. Their smiles light up a room and they’re full of magical boy energy and playfulness that charms everyone they meet. My chubby infant crawls like a champ, and pulls himself up on furniture. My pediatrician keeps lecturing me about the childhood obesity epidemic in America but I’m confident he’ll lose the weight once he starts toddling after big bro.

I thought having two boys was going to be so easy. I scoffed at friends with girls. No makeup wars, princess dresses or someone stealing my heels! No body image issues or period problems! But recently I have begun to realize raising boys isn’t exactly the cake walk I thought it would be.

Like any other mom I want to raise respectful young men who are confident and brave enough to call out any kid who acts like a bully, and don’t view women as sex objects. I tell my son that everyone is different, and it’s OK. Our friends come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Some families have two daddies, or one mommy, and that’s OK too.

We have a pool in our community that just opened. Nine months post C-section, I’m nervous about wearing a two piece even though my husband assures me I look great. Now I’m very conscious of what I say around my older son who soaks up everything he hears like a sponge. I try not to say I look fat today, or I hate my belly. Although he hasn’t said anything self degrading yet, I tell my son he is handsome, that he looks grown up in his Angry Birds shirt that is currently his fashion fav. He seems out of place with his So-Cal, Kingston-like hair, and skull flip flops among the short haired, Nike-shoed children at daycare.

I tell him that boys can have long hair if they want, and listen to whatever music they like even if he is dancing around singing Ke$ha lyrics much to my husband’s chagrin. I realize he is my sensitive artist child, much like me he talks about feelings, and worries why people say or do hurtful things. His baby brother, already stereotyped by family, friends (and I’ll admit me) as the little ”linebacker” because he’s solid at 23 lbs, shouldn’t be referred to as fat. Sometimes I worry that he won’t lose the baby weight and I’ll shop in the ”husky” section.

But so what? I would never love either of my children any less if they were overweight, and I point this out to my 4-year-old any time the chance presents itself.  Over dinner once my stepmom asked about the new helper at daycare. What’s her name again? ”Oh the fat one?” he says.

I cringe and turn to my son, ”No- the nice new lady who helps you at naptime. We don’t call people fat because it could hurt their feelings.”

Once on a car ride, there was an obese woman in a half top crossing the street. Almost like a reflex I laughed. Turning back I see my son in his carseat trying to stifle laughter as well. We lock eyes for a moment before we both were consumed by a giggle-fit. Then, slightly embarrassed I said, ”I know that was funny, but really we shouldn’t laugh at bigger people, they have feelings just like us.” My 4-year-old, in his predictably thoughtful nature, sat for a moment. Then he said ”I know Mommy but I like to laugh with you.” Sigh.

Today I wondered why a perfectly average 4-year-old would ask if he was fat. I try not to put emphasis on image in our family. I tell my older son that I’m proud of him for sharing, eating from all the food groups, or standing up for himself. And when my baby gets older, I’ll do the same.

But I know that kids and adults can be cruel, and that our culture definitely still has a narrow idea of what beautiful is. After two kids, I look at pictures of myself in my 20s, wondering why I ever thought I had a ”fat day ”back then. Hopefully now, I’ll go a little easier on myself and I can teach my children that all people deserve the same amount of love and respect no matter what their weight. Including them.

This reader submission is sponsored by BIC Soleil.

(photo:  Clint120)

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