A few days ago, my four-year old daughter June and I stepped outside to go on a morning walk together. The weather has been getting exponentially warmer here in New Hampshire, and I decided to change out of my quarantine PJ’s and into my favorite shorts for the excursion. I was feeling royally exhausted from the long fucking week we’ve all had at home, and my dry shampoo game was overwhelmingly strong. As I unassumingly walked down the steps to help stick her bike helmet on, June looked up at me and sighed with a grin. Then she said four words that totally stopped me in my tracks.
“Mommy, you’re so cool.”
When she was done talking, June immediately surprised me with one of her famous bear hugs. She climbed happily onto her bike and began pedaling down the block. As a single tear rolled down my face, I smiled at my daughter and followed closely behind her. On this mundane morning in self-quarantine, my four-year old had managed to completely take my breath away.
It’s not lost on me that associating any mom with the word “cool” may not be something my kid does as she grows older. But for this single, magical moment, I remembered that I get to be the primary woman in June’s young life who she looks up to. I am the mom she wraps her arms around and squeezes tight. I am the human being she tries to emulate.
View this post on Instagram
When your 4-year old daughter begs for pink hair, you listen. You let her shine brightly & fully. You support her & celebrate everything that makes her HER. You let expectations go & look at your child as a wholly individual, unique being. And you show up for her in the best, most authentic ways you can. My daughter is a total force of nature. She rejects conformity and embraces adventure. She tests me in the most overwhelming of ways. And she pushes me to grow into a version of myself I didn’t know I needed to become. Motherhood is the hardest and most rewarding role I’ve ever taken on. And I will continue to do it with curiosity and a willingness to always learn. Juniper is one of my greatest teachers. And I absolutely love being on this journey with her. 🌈 (this post was endlessly inspired by the work of @thehealedmother) 💖🦋 #motherhood #selflovejourney #raisingstronggirls #consciousparenting
The most profound part of all is that my daughter has absolutely no fucking clue that her greatest role model in the whole wide world, the one she admires and loves and goes out of her way to appreciate, also happens to be living in a fat body.
And I intend to keep it that way for now.
When my child looks at me, she doesn’t wince at the tummy rolls or stretch marks that exist because of the journey we’ve had together. She sees a soft spot to lay her head on and some cool-ass ripples on mommy’s stomach to run her fingers over. When June dances with me, she doesn’t gawk at how much my giant ass shakes or how flabby my arms are. She’s too busy smiling and laughing at how much fun we’re having. And when my big, squishy body scoops up her little, slender body as we go upstairs for bedtime, my daughter isn’t thinking about whether or not I deserve to take up this much space in the world. She is just grateful to have a strong mama bear who can easily carry her everywhere she needs or wants to go.
I have not always been the kind of woman who could allow herself to be authentically seen by others. When I was a teen and young adult, I was riddled with an eating disorder and a diet pill addiction that left me with years of painful body dysmorphia. I spent nearly two decades of my life obsessively hating the physical home I lived in. I went to dangerous lengths to keep myself as thin as possible. Anytime someone noticed a bodily flaw, a little weight gain, or that I’d taken a break from riding the dieting rollercoaster, it confirmed my greatest fears of being inherently unlovable. And whenever I received positive compliments about losing weight, I’d do anything I could to make myself even smaller.
View this post on Instagram
My daughter has seen a lot this week. The toll this #coronavirus pandemic has taken on my mental health is hard to avoid, and since we’ve all been stuck together inside, she’s witnessed my CPTSD-related muscle spasms a handful of times already. These spasms were nearly nonexistent since Christmas, so to have them re-emerge has been a humbling act of showing up & cultivating self-compassion. When I’m in the middle of a somatic episode, I assure her that she’s done nothing wrong, that my body is simply stressed out, & that I’ll be okay. During these vulnerable moments, she’ll often hold my hand or hug me & speak with kindness. I’ve fought for so long with myself to not show her the challenging sides of my #CPTSD, but that’s basically impossible now. So I allow myself to be seen & heard by her. I also make sure to communicate gently with her after each one, so she knows that I’ve recovered. Children learn so much from watching how their parent behave. My goal as a mom is not to raise “happy kids.” It’s to raise authentic human beings who understand their emotions, feel them with full acceptance, and learn from them. I model daily self-love so that they can know that their inner worth is never up for grabs. I tell them all the things I love about them that have nothing to do with their appearance or productivity in this world. And I make sure to add humor & lightness during our heavy moments together. At the end of this quarantine, our children may not fondly remember the extensive homeschooling we put them through. They may not get joyfully nostalgic recounting the scheduling of days or the obsessive hand washing. They will look back on how much we connected together, our energy around them, and if we had fun. My four-year old gets that we’re living in a strange time, & we talk often about it. I think it’s so important to treat our kids with respect, honesty, and so much love. How we show up for them right now is what they will look back on. It doesn’t require endless stocking up of items or checking off everything on the academic list. It requires our simple presence & light – and from this place, we can stumble & thrive & feel with grace in front of them. 🌸
But then something absolutely fucking magical happened. After living for years in a mental prison of perpetually forced weight loss, I naturally gained weight during my first pregnancy and birthed my daughter in a body that looked nothing like it did before. Slowly but surely, I started to feel inherent power and strength and beauty where I’d previously only saw problem areas. With each day of her young life, June helped me realize that my body has been my loyal home this whole damn time. And I was so fucking tired of battling against it. I was beyond fed up with the chronic need to diminish it. I was ready for a body-acceptance revolution to begin.
It’s been over four years since June entered the world, and I’m proud to say that she’s got a kick-ass example of what it means to be a self-loving woman every time she watches me do just about anything. She sees a mom and human being who cares for herself, is her own perpetual BFF, and is a lovable work in progress. She has never heard me publicly tear down my body, watch me go on some diet, or exercise to punish myself. She happily gets down on the floor with me and laughs as we do yoga for fun together. She beams with joy as we run around on the grass to see who can go faster. She loves when I lift her up and flip her over with my big, strong arms. One of her favorite activities is jumping on top of my legs to become an airplane as I lie on my back on the floor of our living room.
My daughter is being raised by a loved and lovable fat woman, and I am living my best life right in front of her eyes. June doesn’t know yet that this physical descriptor is one that people have used for generations to promote hate, discrimination, and even oppression. And that is totally okay with me for right now. We’ll cross that bridge together when it shows up for her.
As she grows and enters grade school, I know there will come a time when she’ll hear the word “fat” used to hurt someone. I realize that she’ll see kids who have been raised by disconnected adults criticizing their own bodies or the bodies of others. As we do with every challenging topic, I will have an honest conversation with her about the power of owning our inner worth and loving ourselves before we ever seek the approval of others. I will educate her about the true body-positivity movement, along with abhorrent social institutions like racism, bigotry, ageism, poverty, gender equality, and ableism. I will help her learn how to become an ally to all, and she will know that it begins with becoming an ally to herself first and foremost.
But until that day, my daughter’s first experience with a fat human being will be getting to love, learn from, and laugh alongside her mom.
Ever since I created a growing self-love community on social media, I’ve gotten my fair share of health-shaming comments and inappropriate messages. I’ve been told that I’m “promoting obesity,” that I will assuredly live a short life, and that I am only valuable to this world as long as I am skinny in it. Recently, I was personally targeted by an aggressive online bullying campaign after I posted my honest thoughts about the current social injustices of this world. In the photo accompanying my emboldened caption, I have my belly purposefully hanging out for all to see and both middle fingers standing up. A bunch of self-hating, fatphobic white men took this post and smeared it negatively all over the internet. It became downright scary to check my profile for updates, especially once the bullying tactics and threats reached my personal inbox.
I ultimately made the tough decision to take my professional Facebook page down, and this experience taught me so many things. Most significantly, it showed me that the work I am doing is really damn important and necessary. When the status quo only seeks to benefit a select few and someone publicly speaks up about it, they are inevitably left vulnerable to resistance from the handful of folks who want to keep society stuck in place. I will not be bullied into complete silence or complacency, and thankfully, I have a fabulous platform on Instagram to keep going.
It’s only a matter of time before my daughter encounters meanness in this world. She already has in ways, and it breaks my heart every single time she does. Kind words of support always help her through these moments, of course. But the very best thing I know I can do for her is to show her firsthand how to shine brightly in a world that is constantly trying to dim your light. I will always be her safe harbor and greatest fan, and I will forever be a loyal member of “Team June.” Now that I’ve finally learned how to properly love myself, my four-year old gets to see me on “Team Lindsay” too. I love my daughter with my whole heart, and I also love myself with everything I’ve got.
Our young ones need our help more than ever before. Tens of millions of children are developing eating disorders and mental illnesses as a result of living in a society teaching them that they are problems that require fixing. As long as I’m breathing life into this amazing body of mine, my kid will have a ton of reasons to always be on her own side. A child feeling whole and secure and self-trusting is something that starts with us, parents of the world. We can literally be the change we wish to see in our children. We can show up for them as a means to help, rather than hurt. We can embody love and connection from the inside out, and the first step of that journey can be taken at any time. I’m so glad I took mine four years ago. And I have a feeling my daughter is too.