It all started out innocently enough on a Sunday afternoon. We were sitting in the booth at McDonald's, having lunch after our older daughter's soccer game as a treat to celebrate how hard she played. Healthy or not, I do think a treat should be allowed for times like these.
My husband innocently joked with our older daughter by saying, "If you keep eating like that, you will get fat," since she had pretty much finished her hamburger in less than five minutes.
As a side note, it should be noted that my husband is usually a bit of tease with both our girls and both of our girls usually eat it up, going back for seconds.
Still, this time, upon hearing these words, my almost-6-year-old looked at the tiny piece of hamburger bun in her hand that was left from her lunchtime feast and quickly returned it to her plate with a disgusted and pained look, now not wanting to eat another bite.
My head hurt and my heart broke upon seeing her reaction, even at such a young age.
Without even thinking, I immediately picked up the tiny leftover bun and told her that Daddy was just kidding around with her and she was just perfect and beautiful in our eyes. My husband just as quickly backed me up, retracting his original statement and added that he was just indeed teasing her, as there wasn't any truth in his comment at all.
Thankfully, she believed us and finished the last bite of that bun, as well as the rest of her lunch.
It's crazy, though, how one innocent comment that was meant to only lighten up a family outing could bring to light how, as females, we are trained, even from the youngest of ages, to be sensitive to how our appearances are perceived by others.
It should be noted though that this same child has never been overweight a day in her life. She was petite as an infant and is petite now. But then again, so was her mom (me). This comment unnerved my young daughter, but it also left me to wrestle with my own past and present demons.
See, back in the day, I was always the smallest kid in my class. I was line leader every year in elementary school because of my lack of height. My dad lovingly nicknamed me, "Monkey face and chicken legs," because it was endearing to him and also partially because I was just a silly kid with skinny little legs.
As crazy as it sounds, though, I can still very much recall how much I hated being small for my age. Each September, I wished that I could return to school and not be the smallest in my class. (By the way, about a week before the McDonald's incident, my same daughter was actually complaining about being small for her age compared to others in her own kindergarten class to me.)
Fast-forward to my high school years, where this did change a bit for me. I still recall mid-sophomore year, looking down and noticing curves where my once skinny, little chicken legs were.
Puberty and hormones had a funny way of catching up to me. Yet, height-wise I was still on the smaller size, rounding out at 5'2".
Within a year or so, I had slimmed back down and yet, for years afterwards, I'd check the mirror, worrying about my appearance and weight. Normal weight or not, I still obsessed over how my body looked.
And then, I became pregnant with my first child. I was overjoyed with being pregnant, but I won't lie -- as those numbers climbed, I could feel the panic rising inside of me at seeing the actual numbers on the scale.
See, I had never seen a number that large on the scale for myself. Granted, I was pregnant and it was not only normal, but allowed. Still, l cringed.
Even after I gave birth, those extra baby pounds didn't come sliding off of me easily by any means. And just when I was almost back to my normal at almost eight months post-pregnancy, I was pregnant for the second time.
This time out, I was extra cautious about how much weight I would gain. Nausea helped in the first trimester, as I was too sick to even think of eating much for those first three-four months. But as I progressed into the latter part of that pregnancy, I was definitely more on guard with my weight and appearance sadly.
I ended that pregnancy smaller than my first pregnancy.
Within weeks of giving birth and being mom to both my babies under the age of 2, I lost almost a significant amount of weight instantly, as I truly didn't even have time for me or sitting down. But still, my body shape was forever changed from both my pregnancies.
I was then and am still almost five years later now normal weight, but gone is the girl that had a stomach that you could bounce quarters off of, the girl with the tight thighs. In her stead is a mother with a bit more cushion and softness.
I should have been proud of my body during pregnancy. As a young mom and even now, years after as I carried and gave birth to two perfectly, amazing girls, I sometimes feel down about my new body shape.
How I wish that I could be more secure in my body image. Sadly, I have been conditioned to feel this way about the female body by what our society showcases in TV, movies and print magazines.
The remark that my husband made to our older daughter stung. I had truly hoped that I had a bit more time before she worried about her looks and appearance, but just like that, my baby girl is growing up.
A seemingly harmless remark like my husband's made her think twice about what she was eating, because of what she perceived someone (her own father) thought about her looks. But now that I know my girls are very much listening and absorbing all we say, as well as what society says, you better believe both my husband and I will be more careful as to what we say or joke about in this vein.
Because even though I know I may be dreaming or sounding naive when I say this, I truly never wanted either of my girls to feel less than perfect. Again, I know the reality of the world, but still, I want to have hope and wish that maybe my girls can still have a chance at being more secure than even their own mom and rise up above worrying about what others in society think or deem to be the norm. Because in my eyes, both of my daughters are absolutely beautiful and perfect the way they are.
A version of this post was originally published on Confessions of A Mommyaholic.