Go Look In the Mirror, After You Tell Me How You Feel You Look

This morning while getting dressed for school, the almost-seven year old Amelia rejected the t-shirt I had grabbed for her to go with her leggings and fleece jacket. It surprised me because it was the Clearwater Marine Aquarium tee with two dolphins on it, her favorite animal.

“Mom, I don’t feel comfortable in this t-shirt.”

It was the first time she had ever said anything like that to me, and I could tell this wasn’t because of an itchy tag or the shirt not fitting right.

“What about it makes it feel not comfortable to you?”

“Well, it feels like a paint shirt. Can I have one that fits closer?” Amelia is a tall and thin kid, and the shirt was boxy on her. She usually wears contoured tees so she isn’t swimming in them.

“I grabbed this one because it was a little longer, so it looked more like a tunic over your leggings. Your leggings are tight, so I would like your bum covered. But I would also like you to feel comfortable in your t-shirt. What should we do?”

“Wellll, when my fleece is on my bum is covered. I would just like a shirt that isn’t so bunchy.”

So I hunt down two different tees while she brushes her teeth, she picks one that is more contoured (a blue one with baleen whales on it) and covers her bum, puts on her jacket, smooths her hand over her tummy, does a full body wiggle and declares, “Now that’s more like it, Alice.”  (My name is not Alice.)

I wrapped her up in a big hug and said she looked ready to be a learning girl today and that we needed to brush her hair. Then I asked how she felt in her new t-shirt and how she thought she looked. She replied, “Full of awesome, Baby!”

It was only then that I told her to go take a once over in the mirror. I want her to practice feeling confidence in the image she projects, instead of the mirror telling her that answer. The mirror is just to make sure she doesn’t have pumpkin bread crumbs on her chin. The mirror provides a reflection. Her heart will provide confidence.

I glance at Amelia looking at herself in the mirror. She was standing with her feet apart, bouncing on her toes, giving herself two thumbs up and wiggling her eyebrows at herself. Her hair looked like a squirrel was living it, but I could tell she felt very full of awesome.

And then I realized I had been holding my breath. When she had said she wasn’t comfortable in her shirt, I immediately made a mental note of the words she chose and was internally grateful she had not said that she looked “fat” or “ugly”. I would be crushed if she said that about herself. She doesn’t hear her parents use those words nor do we use media that reinforces the Beauty Myth and Thin Ideal. She brought home a book from her school library yesterday that had Ariel, Disney’s Little Mermaid on it. Ariel’s waist is thinner than her arm on the cover.

“Motherbumping Disney princesses” I muttered in my head when she took it out of her backpack. I wondered if her school library also had children’s books on eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder? But when Amelia was showing the books to her little brother Benny, she informed him that Ariel’s “tummy was way too small” and the artist had drawn her wrong. Later that evening following Girl Scouts, Amelia had been sitting at the table drawing pictures of mermaids for me and all of their waists were in proportion to their heads. Phew!

But then she made the comment this morning about not feeling uncomfortable in her shirt! Egads! Was is starting? Was she beginning to doubt herself and her body image? She’s not even seven! I was telling myself to stop overreacting as I could feel myself overreacting. I made her body from scratch, it took forever to get pregnant with her and then I puked for nine months. It took so much of my body to create her body, I wanted her to know every day how glorious her body and life are. I want her to love and cherish herself as much as her dad and I do. I want that kind of self love for all girls.

So on the walk to school, I checked in with her to see how the t-shirt was feeling.

“How we doing, Smalls? How’s the t-shirt feel under all those layers?”

“Oh, good. I was worried that other one might lead to a flea infestation.”

Yep, we’re all good here. Just normal, super quirky Amelia whose positive body image is well intact.

A Sparkly Mermaid Princess Did Not Remove My Gall Bladder

One sticker is a Pigtail Pals sticker, the other we got at the doctor's office. Which is which?

Remember in 8th grade Life Science and you had to learn all the organs and muscles and bones in the body and then diagram it out in neat little handwriting? Well, I didn’t, which is why I was taken by surprise when I learned what my gall bladder was after Googling “chest pain from hell” a few weeks back. Long, painful story short, my gall bladder had stopped working and it needed to come out.

Today I had my post-op appointment. Amelia really enjoyed meeting the surgeon at my previous appointment, so I brought her along. Yesterday afternoon Amelia drew her little brother as a fat alien, complete with lungs, liver, gall bladder, and yellow blood. All the organs were in the right places. Next she drew the solar system. She’s five. I was proud.

So we’re waiting for the doctor to come in and Amelia was chatting with the nurse, informing her on the difference between toothed and baleen whales. When the doctor comes in, Amelia thanks her for being gentle with my tummy and doing a fine job taking out my “barnacle”. Then a photo on the wall catches Amelia’s eye…of a guy in Uganda whose arm was in two pieces on an operating table. She stands up on a chair to get a better look, and then starts questioning the surgeon if that is her in the picture and how did she get there was what was she doing. The doctor looked at me with raised eyebrows, in a “Should I explain this to her?” look. I nodded and said, “G-rated, heavy on the science.”

Next up was getting my surgical strips off while the doctor checked my incisions. Amelia asked her questions the entire time, and the doctor was loving it, saying that we have a budding general surgeon on our hands. Amelia asked if she could come to work and help cut up people and see their blood. My doctor said she could come to the hospital someday to watch her work, but she wouldn’t be allowed to cut people up. Fair enough.

The doctor complimented Amelia on all of her questions, said she was glad she liked science, and asked if she wanted a sticker. Amelia said yes, I stifled a snort.

The nurse came in with stickers for Amelia. I knew what was coming. While the doctor scolded me for not taking it easy and forbidding me to exercise for yet another week, I watched Amelia’s face fall when the nurse handed her the stickers.

Three. Disney. Princesses.

Now, I know the nurse was being nice. But my kid just spent nearly 20 minutes talking about medicine and science to a surgeon.

And she gets handed Ariel. Whose waist is medically impossibly smaller than her head and who somehow can blow bubbles into the shape of a tiara that hovers above her shiny underwater gold castle.

“Ugh,” says Amelia, “Here. Pigtail Pals.” And then she fist bumps me and shoves the stickers in my purse.

The doctor looked at me, not understanding.

I tried to explain, “She doesn’t really care for the Disney Princesses and she’s just telling me she wants to trade these in for stickers I have at home and…”

“I don’t like Princesses because they don’t do anything and if you are a doctor then you should have stickers about science,” says my girl.

And she is absolutely right.

“You can’t be what you can’t see.” – Marie Wilson, The White House Project