I spent my entire twenties as a dedicated couch potato. Sleep late? Yup. Chocolate PopTarts for breakfast? Four, please! Weeknight activity? Watching Friends on the couch with a bag of Doritos, thankyouverymuch.
I was never unhappy enough with my appearance or fitness level to do anything differently, although my jeans size always fell firmly in the “plus size” category, and I got winded climbing the two flights of stairs to my apartment. At 25, I got married. To a man whose business is fitness. He had loved me as a couch potato since we met at age 18, and I saw no reason to change for him since he seemed quite pleased with the junk in my trunk.
When I was 28 I had my first daughter and the couch potato life seemed like a natural fit for someone with an infant. When I was 31, I had my second daughter. Nine months later, I ran my first half marathon.
For the first half of my training, I hated Every. Single. Mile. Sure, I was doing it for me — I had held onto a few pregnancy pounds from each of my girls, and was getting close to needing a size bigger than I’d ever worn before, but mostly it was my girls who kept me putting one foot in front of the other.
My oldest daughter was three, and I just couldn’t keep up with that energy level. Her little sister was just a baby, but the busiest baby I had ever met. I needed to keep up with them and the demands of being a mom. More than that, I wanted to be an example for them. A strong, capable, confident woman. When I was wavering at mile ten on race day, it was their sweet faces on the sidewalk, cheering for me, that made me keep running when I thought I couldn’t.
“Skinny” is not part of the conversation with my girls, but “strong” and “healthy” are big. I don’t talk about losing weight or looking fat, because the world is going to bombard them soon enough.
When I was 33, I had a surprise baby, a boy. I had a five year old, a two year old, and a newborn. I had a husband who had just started a new business, a part-time job with many clients to please, and an energy- and joy-sucking case of post-partum anxiety. Something had to go, and running could have been the first thing. I had shown my girls I was strong, right? I didn’t have time. I didn’t have the energy, or the desire. I was barely keeping my head above water and keeping all three kids alive seemed like the best I could do.
But then I knew I had to do it for my boy. The boy who will grow up to be a boyfriend, a husband, a father. Just like my girls need to know that women can be strong, so does my son. I want him to be drawn to someone with healthy self-esteem based on what she can do, not how she looks. Someone adventurous who feels strong enough to go rock-climbing or mountain biking with him.
When he is a father, I want him to teach his daughters to play sports just as he would his sons.
So many moms are aware of being a role model for their daughters, but our boys need that, too. They will very likely be forming their ideas of good wives/girlfriends based on what we model for them.
I want all three of my kids to know being healthy is important, and feel like they can do anything. I want them to know women can be strong and confident.
And I want them to be comfortable eating that fourth chocolate PopTart every once in a while, too.
Related post: Through My Children’s Eyes