What I Said When My Daughter Asked to Touch My ‘Squishy’ Belly

body image

My daughter couldn’t have been more than eight the first time she came to me sobbing about being fat. The body image struggle had begun.

Fat? You’re a kid. You hardly know your addition facts. I was shocked at the language coming from her mouth. A mouth with gaping tooth holes, no less.

Some kid at school had thrown out the F word and now some conversations would need to take place.

My first reaction was to brush it off.
You aren’t fat, Sweetie. You are a beautiful little girl. Go play with your dolls.

But a few days later it came up again and I knew I needed to give this more thought. How was I going to respond?

What did I want to teach my daughter about her body?
What about her sisters?

Those questions introduced two more:
What does it mean to be beautiful?
How do I feel about my own body image?

A closed bathroom door is a magnet for small fists and conversations that just. can. not. wait. And in perfect timing, three girls piled in and discovered my belly. You know the one. The one fluffy and wobbly from growing babies. And this one has seen quite a few.

Oh mommy! I love your belly. Can I touch it? It is so soft.

And touch it they did, wowed by it’s texture.

I wanted to pull away and correct their misunderstandings.

But something made me stop and evaluate my next words very carefully.

To my surprise, they sounded something like this:
I know. Isn’t it great how soft it is? Do you know why? Because you kids got to live in there and my belly stretched out amazingly far. Isn’t God smart to design my belly like that?

That day, something shifted in me. 

That was the day I decided to model more than just a squishy middle. I was going to model good body image and an appreciation for my body for the sake of my girls.

What did I want to hear coming from their mouthes? Whatever it was, it needed to be coming from mine first.

I now have four daughters with four different shapes. From boney to booty; from slim to not-so-much.

And they are all beautiful. Of course they are! But I need to do more than just tell them that; I need to model that.

Ladies, we have great bodies!
That’s right, GREAT BODIES!

What makes a body great?

I’ll tell you what makes mine great.

I slogged out of bed this morning and my legs didn’t buckle but they took me to the kitchen where my hands made eggs for my family.

My neck swiveled 6,000 times, turning from one kid to the next to answer questions.

My shoulders carried groceries, my lips made boo-boos vanish, my elbows bent in tricky ways to reach the kid in the carseat behind me. These thighs? Let’s just say, my kids want them on their kickball teams.

A great body? Why, yes I do. 

A model might have a great body for her job, but so do I.

And so do you.

Mom friends, our bodies were not designed to be looked at but to do great things. They were created for hugging and adventure and nurturing and for action!I want my daughters to grow up knowing their design and appreciating their bodies for what they can do, not how they appear.

It needs to start right here with me and my great body.


This article originally appeared at CarissaYoder.com.

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Carissa Yoder
Hi, I'm Carissa and I (usually) love my chaotic life. I want to blame my seven kids and my farming husband but it's really God's fault because he keeps asking us to follow him. I love adventure, traveling and raising powerful kids. And parents. I think we parents pretty much rock. Find me blogging at CarissaYoder.com.