Amidst the business of preparing three kiddos to walk out to the pool, a voice calmly, but effectively, cut through my thoughts.
“Hey, Mom, you know how the pool has lines on it? So do you!”
I set the water bottles down and turned away from the sink to see what Child 1 was talking about. I was prepared to hear that I’d leaned on something and had a temporary imprint, and was already beginning to plan what needed done next.
“See? Right here…” A finger was jabbed into my thigh, and reality hit me. Hard.
She was staring at the faint, silver lines on my thigh/buttocks.
Stretch marks from pregnancies.
I’ve often reassured myself they’re not that noticeable and I know many woman who have stretchmarks. It’s a great pep talk and I don’t struggle with body image when I wear shorts. No one is going to notice my stretch marks unless they’re intently studying my legs.
For instance, like the child breathing on my leg and nearly going cross-eyed as she inspected these lines of interest.
Thoughts burst into my mind like fireworks.
“Should I be concerned she’s studying my leg/butt? Are the stretchmarks really *that* obvious?! I got those when I was pregnant with her; can I tell her we’re not discussing my body issues? If she’s noticing this now, what will she be – loudly – announcing next? Is she going to discuss my body with strangers? My kids already talk to strangers about my clothes…evidently my underwear is the most interesting part of the laundry. Remember when the toddler smuggled my undies into the post office and waved them at the postman? My kids need a life. They have a life! A good one! That’s not the issue, Self. Oh yeah, well, WHY is she staring at my thigh!?!”
But, I don’t want her to grow up thinking normal bodies are ugly. I struggled with self-image all my childhood; I want my girls to know they are normal and beautiful. My mother and relatives refused to talk about such things; I want Child 1 to know we can discuss anything. I don’t want her dreading swimsuit season and mirrors when she’s a teen or a young mother. I’m not ashamed of my faint stretch marks. If anything, the pregnancies that gave me those lines made me more confident about my body.
Resorting to a clueless, calm answer (there’s a category for you!), I replied, “Yep, I sure do!”
*deep breath as I awaited her response*
Would she ask how I got them? Was she disgusted by them?
“It matches the pool, Mom. That’s really cool.”
And she dashed away to get her life jacket.
Please, God, help me know how to raise the girls with a proper self-image, to show them how You see them. Because I feel underqualified to teach them when the stakes are so high. Please keep sending wisdom. You’ll know where to find me; just look for the cool legs.
This post originally appeared on the blog, Tomorrow Is A Place. Tamara describes herself as an empath, avid baker, retainer of random trivia, single mother, domestic abuse survivor, occasional blogger, and frequent smiler.