I am loving my body more than ever this summer – because my daughter is watching
Today, my daughter (and her brother) and I swam in the sea.
It's only June, but we have already done that a lot this summer – despite the rather chilly Irish summer weather.
On weekend mornings, we have woken up in the morning, thrown things in the beach bag and headed out. Sometimes to our local beach, other times to ones further away.
Once school is out, we will head to Scandinavia to spend the next few weeks with family, like we do every summer. Usually, the summer weather there is glorious, and so so much of our time, this summer like very summer, will be spent on beaches, at the local outdoor pools or at the park.
In other words, I will be pretty much living in a swimsuit this summer. And the thing is – even though I have my insecurities over my body like so many of us – I have put my own hang-ups aside and decided to live my life to the fullest anyway.
Despite my stomach not being as flat as it used to be. Or my butt as tight as it once was. Despite the silver-white stretchmarks that run down my thighs (thanks, kids!)
Why? Well, for starters because it feels incredibly freeing to just get out and enjoy summer without worrying about something as silly as stretch marks. But also – and far more importantly – because my 11-year-old daughter is watching.
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We live in a world that is saturated with impossible beauty standards. Where we are forever being told – be it through words or through images or simply by absorbing social media – that we need to look a certain way to be beautiful.
That we need to be skinny to be pretty, that we should cover up imperfections and forever aim to keep working towards a 'beautiful' that someone else has decided on.
Research shows that children as young as four or five can experience body image issues. Toddlers. Who should be concerned with little else than play and coming up with things to throw tantrums about.
And so I am determined to make sure my daughter’s worldview is not shaped by this strive for perfection. And this feeling she needs to look a certain way to love her body.
She is so beautiful. And not just because of the way she looks – even though I do think she is the most beautiful creature on this planet (along with her little brother, of course). But mostly because she is kind. And funny. And gentle. And fierce. And caring. And clever. And this amazing human that I cannot believe I get to watch grow.
And so I will love my own body just as fiercely as I love hers.
In the hope – and faith – that it will teach her to love hers too.
Children learn from us every minute of every day – and I cannot expect my daughter to gain skills from me that I don't possess myself. Which means – loving my body is more important than ever before, for myself and, most importantly, for her.
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And so I wear the swimsuit and get in the water.
And I run around the park in my shorts.
And I show her I love my body by taking care of it. By eating foods to nourish it – and enjoying a slice of cake and an ice cream at the beach too – because a life without ice cream or peanut butter brownies is simply not worth it if you ask me.
I do yoga – sometimes with her, sometimes by myself – because it makes me feel strong and happy and at peace – and I want her to see how good loving your body feels. How good it feels to love it so much you want the best for yourself.
And so when I put on that swimsuit, I fill my head with good words about my own body. How it is strong and healthy. How it carried two children and gave birth to them and fed them. How it is the place my children feel the most at home and safe. How my arms have held and hugged and comforted them – and others – a thousand times. How it has danced and ran and played and moved for me.
My body does so much for me every day, and my goodness, I can love it in return.
For me – and for my beautiful girl.
Because at the end of the day, our children don't care the slightest about how we look in our swimsuits. They care that we get in the water with them.