Suburban Snapshots

Anna, Long and Lean

Friday, July 15, 2011

As she gets taller and leaner, I'm reminded that Anna's got about .004 seconds before she starts scrutinizing her own body. So while she's blissfully unaware of the torrent of societal bullshit about to threaten her self-image, I'm going to let her enjoy her skin and bones and ignorance.

We're not an especially naked family, owing mostly to the enormous windows at both the front and back of the house (any one of my neighbors can tell you our morning PBS lineup and what we had for dinner last night), but between Steve and me I'm definitely the less modest. Anna barges into my bedroom as I'm changing, then walks behind me kneading my rear-end as I move around the room. I laugh and pretend to be comfortable with the softness there I've never loved and the dimples I've always had.

She'll tug my shirt down while we sit together on the couch and ask, "When I was a baby, I ate from your boobs?" and I give the simplest "Yes" that I can, hoping to convey how proud I was to nourish her that way, how normal it should seem. Last week she smashed her doll into my nipple and asked me to feed her, so I think she's getting it.

I don't shy away from her questions or get embarrassed by her curiosity. I explain that her nakedness is for certain places only and not for strangers or the street-facing picture window; oh, how she loves to dance in the picture window. I have never loved a body like I love every single cell on my smooth, lanky little girl's (ok, well maybe...but totally different context.) I want her to love it for as long as possible, to know it and to use it. She should understand her body so she has the confidence to enjoy it and the intelligence to protect it.

In the years since I became aware that my own body was taller and thicker than most, I've had just a few periods of really liking it, of feeling totally comfortable with myself. I've been acutely aware of how my thighs feel when I walk, where they touch, how jeans fit, how the size I used to be was at the high end of 'regular.' I often felt out of scale among groups of women friends, clumsily photoshopped into the scene.

I love watching Anna play at home, totally unencumbered with those kinds of concerns, exuberant in nothing but Elmo underwear and temporary tattoos. I've watched her meaty baby legs become long and muscular, her round cheeks develop contours. I'll continue to marvel at her growth and to love her every pore, and hope that her boundless confidence stays with her always.

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