Nearly every morning, I take a shower. When I step out of the shower, I wrap a towel around my horde of curls and stand naked in front of the huge mirror over our vanity. I assess my belly, once smooth and firm, now scarred and soft from the hard work of pregnancy and three c-sections. I grimace with a something akin to irritation at my thighs – no matter how many miles they’ve run, or how many squats they’ve done – they can never quite escape the dimples of cellulite, now exacerbated by time and gravity. I save my harshest criticism for my ass. No longer the petite derriere of a twenty-something, age and heredity (and more than a few french fries) have contributed to its metamorphosis. It’s somehow larger, but smaller – wider and flatter, criss-crossed with stretch marks. Firm? Only when I’m clenching those babies tight enough to crush a soda can. It occurs to me that I’ve conducted this same ritual for decades – in different bathrooms in different homes in different mirrors – and I’ve never been satisfied with what I’ve been looking at. Today, I would give anything to have those 24-year-old thighs or stomach or ass but, when I was 24, it wasn’t good enough. Surely, there’s a lesson in that alone that should go something like “be happy with what you’ve got, because someday you’ll be wishing you had just that.” Let’s be honest, aging works in mysterious ways. Stray hairs are akin to the rings of trees – the number is a sure indicator of age. The random strands are like phantoms – I can feel them there, but my eyesight has declined to the point where I can’t actually see them. The same goes for some of the finer wrinkles on my face. Nearsightedness is God’s Photoshop. The further I stand from the mirror, the better I look – a self-inflicted blur filter.
A few days ago I was handing my daughter a towel through the bathroom door as she stepped out of the shower. Through the steam, I watched as she stepped out, wiped the condensation off the mirror, checked out her rearview and said “My stretch marks are cool as hell! They look like lightning bolts.” The little voice in my brain tried to begin its critical assessment. The much louder Mom voice in my head was having none of that. All I could see and hear was my absolutely perfect baby grown into an absolutely perfect 15-year-old. It’s not about shape or size or dimples or stretch marks or anything. She’s my baby. Of course her stretch marks are lightning bolts; every inch of her is magical. “I love them, too, Beans!” I said, smiling. And then I handed her the towel and shut the door because I was getting the eye roll. Apparently, I can only love her shape silently. (Ha ha – I have blog.)
I read enough to know that her confidence is practically pure luck. As a parent, my voice is often drowned out by that of her peers and a cacophony of voices and images in the media, social and otherwise. Beans has always marched to the beat of her own drum. As any parent of an exuberant, free-spirited kid will tell you, that’s equal parts fantastic and frustrating. Fearless is good in an adult, and terrifying in a toddler. Ask me about the time she slid head-first out of a second story window. In this particular situation though…it’s great. “You go girl,” I thought.
I thought about that for a minute. Why was I all “go girlfriend” for my daughter and not for myself? Did I turn in my female empowerment card along the way – somewhere between Ally McBeal’s dancing baby and Sarah Palin’s view of Russia? This is my body – for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, til…well, you know. And really, has my constant self-criticism ever really changed anything? Wouldn’t it be better to step out of the shower and love my butt?
It’s my job as a mom to teach my kids all the important life lessons – but today, my little girl taught me.
“I love my stretch marks!”