A Letter To My Daughter, Age 5, Who Told Me Her Legs Look Fat

by Jo Eismont
Originally Published: 

Dear Kate,

I don’t know if I can properly describe how very perfect you are at 5. You are bright, curious and gloriously unconsciously silly in the way that only 5-year-olds can be. You’re quick to laugh, with a fantastic giggle that’s so pure, I fancy little glass musical notes floating up toward the sky.

Your face is innocently open and inquiring. I can see every emotion you have range across it; you haven’t yet learned the adult trick of hiding how you really feel about things (P.S. Don’t bother, it’s overrated).

You’re getting tall, and strong, and your constant need to run everywhere instead of walk (or fly like “Superlady,” apparently) keeps you lithe—but you still have that very tiny touch of toddler plumpness, which I will miss more than I can tell you when you’re a bigger girl.

And that’s why, when you told me that your legs looked fat, my heart dropped, just sunk like a stone to the very pit of my stomach. I don’t want you to be part of the world where girls are made to feel less for being more. Not yet. Actually, not ever, although I know that’s unrealistic. But certainly not yet.

So here’s what I told you in response. I hope I got it halfway right. I hope it’s not part of your later—fabulously successful—memoirs, where you decry me for setting you on the road to an eating disorder. It’s a conversation with you that I’ll never forget, and I’m writing it down because I never want you to forget it either.

Your legs are not built solely for the purpose of looking good in skinny jeans, nor are they designed to drape gracefully from a $1,000 dress next to a $2,000 handbag.

Legs are meant to be powerful. Your legs will do the donkey work for your body every single day of your life.

Your legs walk you to school and to play with your friends; they help you attempt the climbing wall that has defeated you thus far. They make you jump, skip, hop and run. When you bound up and down every set of stairs we pass, when you play hide and seek as we waste sunny afternoons in the park, when you decide—again—that you will reach top of the jungle gym this time? All of those things are possible because you’re healthy and strong.

And don’t think that when you’re older you won’t need them as much.

When you’re a college student, you’ll use your legs to walk to school because you’ll be too broke to have a car (trust me on that one). You’ll need them for the bar work you’ll do in Greece over the summer, giving your dad and me palpitations but phoning home regularly. You’ll need them to go to the gym and clubbing with your friends and to drag yourself around a 5k fun run on a Sunday morning for a good cause.

You’ll need them to climb the steps up to the stage where you receive your degree. You’ll need them to walk your babies up and down the hall at 4 a.m. when they won’t sleep. You’ll definitely need them to run away from danger (hungry lions, oncoming cars, questionable men) or toward danger (bungee jumping, skydiving, parkour) if that’s going to be your thing.

And you’ll definitely need them to run back home, back to your family, whenever you need us, because that’s what families are for.

So please, never think for a minute that you’re not perfect just as you are, or that your body doesn’t look as good as someone else tells you it should. Because I made you, cell by cell, I know that you’re everything you were ever meant to be, and a little bit more.

Love, Mum

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