|Photo Courtesy Erin Miller Photography|
My best day as a mother came about six months after my worst day as a mom. One of those random nights in January where we were picking up my five year old daughter’s room before bath time when she dropped a bombshell on me. I was asking her about her day when out of the blue I asked this:
Me: “What do you like most about yourself.”
Lila: “What? I don’t like anything about myself.”
Me: “What do you mean you don’t like anything about yourself? You have a beautiful smile and a kind heart. You draw lovely pictures and have the cutest laugh. And you are so much fun to be with!”
She was quiet, sad, and quite thoughtful for a bit when I decided to prompt her with what I loved about myself. I told her “I like my dimples, even the ones on my butt! I can do lots of different things for work, and I have the silliest personality.” Then I shocked her when I shrugged and said, “I love myself.”
Quite honestly I shocked myself too.
I’m not totally ready to say those words…yet. But I’m close. I do love lots of things about myself, but positive self-talk has not always been easy for me, as I’m my worst critic and always too hard on myself. But in that moment I knew I needed to teach her by example.
Later that evening I was devastated about that conversation. Lila doesn’t like anything about herself? Was I failing as a mom? Are we already having self-image issues and she hasn’t even started Kindergarten?
We’d already talked about body issues when she asked me if her tummy was fat. (She had overheard me talking about trying to lose baby weight.) She’d even told me once not to eat a cupcake because “you need to lose weights mommy.” This was something we needed to work on…pronto. But how do you teach a child to have a healthy self-image?
Perhaps I need to have one too.
I didn’t buy a book, or google it, or read tons of blog posts on the subject. Instead I looked within. I decided to try to model better behavior and ask her a few times a week to tell me what she did that was special during her day. Not just activities, but things she did herself that she was proud of. I’ve asked her who loves her, and a few times I’ve even asked her to say, “I love me.” She felt silly doing it though. (Quite honestly so do I).
I’ve also stopped worrying about my weight and just started trying to be healthier. We’ve been exercising as a family, and focusing more on the positive. I didn’t do anything magical. I didn’t check out any books for her to read at the library. I just paid more attention to my words and actions and made sure she (and I) tried to look at the bright side.
That’s when I was totally surprised last weekend when we were driving home from visiting some of our family when she said:
Lila: “Mommy there are lots of people that love me.”
Me: “Yes you have cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents that love you very much.”
Lila: “Yes Ryan, Laura, Stevie, Jack, Jilly, and Tommy love me.”
Me: “And Nana, Papa, Heather, Eric, Susie, and Uncle Timmy love you.”
Lila: “And I love me!”
I grinned. I was quiet. I was so completely happy. This could quite possibly be my best day as a mom, so far.
I’m not sure if at the age of five that she really understands what this statement means. But I hope that encouraging positive self-talk and self love will make a difference in her self-confidence as she grows older. I also hope that I can continue to be more positive with myself.
We all read stories about the trials and tribulations of motherhood. Our kids won’t eat anything we cook, they throw tantrums, and we are utterly sleep deprived. But then there are those parenting moments like this that make it all worth while. The “aha” moments where we see them becoming little people, with a real understanding of the world. Hearing Lila say those words made me feel so completely proud.
It’s amazing how quickly they absorb life lessons, and how much our children teach me every single day. I may not love me fully yet…but for Lila and Emy I will continue to work at it. Who knew three little words could have such a large impact. Can you say it?
Ahhh, I love this!! Such a defining moment, and so awesome. I have been really trying to watch what I say/do lately around my kids as well. It’s a work in progress, but I don’t want to mess it up! I am totally going to have them start saying “I love me!”
Kristen Hewitt says
It’s such a hard thing for all of us – self acceptance.
The Reeds says
Spot on Kristen. You rocked this post. Totally and completely. Well done.
Kristen Hewitt says
Thanks Georgia – appreciate your support!
VITA Train for Life says
So, so great!!! I love how you didn’t google anything or read 1,000 blog posts on the topic, but just looked inside yourself and decided to set a better example, even if you weren’t quite ready for it. That’s what moms do for their kids, right? HUGE win for you mom. Be proud!! Thanks for sharing this…
Ida Arias says
Excellent post! Totally awesome mother/daughter moment. It is so important to teach children to love themselves first. I try with my three all the time. I make sure to let them know how amazing they are and point out all the amazing things they can do. I’ve had them call me fat and I embrace it. I tell them “Yes, I should take care of myself better so I can be around for a long time just to bug you” and they get a kick out of it. I figure, if I make it fun, they learn a new lesson without realizing it!!
Kristen Hewitt says
The “F” word is a no-no in my house…glad you are able to use it as a positive!
Aileen Brian Van Pelt says
This is such a great post, Kristen! You much have felt so proud when Lila said that. We are accustomed to asking our girls about the best part of their day, but now we’ll need to ask what they love about themselves. This is a great way to start that conversation. Thanks for inspiring us!
Kristen Hewitt says
Thanks for reading Aileen, it’s so important with our 2 girls isn’t it?!
Echo A says
That is so sweet! Teaching your kids to love themselves is so important!
Aww… love this post. Something to keep in mind for sure!
ANNNNNNND cue the tears. I’m a mom, and a woman who has struggled with body image her whole life. I’m desperately trying not to pass that to my own little girl, and this was exactly the reminder I needed to keep trying, even when it’s hard.
Kristen Hewitt says
It’s a never-ending plight Katy, do truly see our faults and triumphs and love them all. Good luck to you and I’m so glad this inspired you!
Tamara Camera says
This is beautiful. We haven’t had a lot of talks like this lately, but she does know that I hate the words “fat” and “stupid” perhaps even more than the “F” words. Yes, it can happen!
This was great!!! We are seriously and undoubtedly our children’s first teachers. They learn from the things we say and the things we don’t say. Sponges they are! Just absorbing it all…
Naughtee B says
Aw, what an awesome moment! She’s a beauty too!
Jennifer Humphries says
As a parent that is one of the toughest balancing acts. We know there are things we need to work on, but don’t want our kids to pick up our issues. I love how you handled this and love your sweet girl’s comments about love. Good job Kristen on handling this.
Jennifer - The Deliberate Mom says
I love this so much! I love how you approached this and organically explored how she could focus on loving herself. Your daughter not “loving” herself doesn’t reflect on you as a parent, but rather it’s probably something that just didn’t come up. Something you didn’t consider would possibly need addressing or attention. When it did come up… you tackled it! Then you shared it… so us other mommies can check in with our kiddos and see what they love about themselves.
Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful post!
Thanks so much for sharing.
Wishing you a lovely day.
Jennifer Ludwigsen says
Totally have a hard time saying it about myself – it feels like a lie in my mouth. But I do constantly have talks with my big girl about how she sees herself. I compliment her intelligence, I compliment her art abilities, I compliment her ability to problem solve. I try to stay away from anything relating to her appearance….I was raised in a household where body-shaming was exemplified every day and beauty was how you looked, not who you were. I don’t want that for my littles.
Good job, Mama. You are rockin it and should be so, so proud of getting your little girl to see herself in a bright and beautiful way.
Thanks so much Jennifer. It is hard for me to say it as well…something we all can work on! Sounds like we were raised in the same house….
Aubrey Hunt says
Oh, how wonderful! You’re doing a great job — being careful and attentive about your daughter’s self image and emotional health. I know it must have felt totally awesome to hear those words. Yay for you AND for her! (Visiting from Parenting Pointers linkup this time!)
Thank you, it was a big moment for us!
Wow. What an incredible post and more importantly an amazing approach. Thank you for reminding all of us that looking inside ourselves for the answers can be more beneficial than reading, researching and finding wise words from others. I am very inspired but not only your post, but by your ability to work in a fast-paced environment while being a hands-on parent and loving wife. Thanks for being a role model to many.
Thank you for your kind words, I’m glad this post has helped so many.
Mark Parsons says
Very nice post Kristen. Thanks for sharing. I needed to read that. 🙂
This is such a beautiful story! My daughter and I have a book we read sometimes called “I Love Myself,” but I know I can do a better job modeling that for my daughter and telling her that I love myself (silly as that may feel!).
I need to get that book! Thank you!