i am the biggest loser

Chicken: (eating a Popsicle) Mmm! Chicken treat!
Me: is it yummy?
Chicken: (holds it out to me) Mommy like-a some?
Me: oh no thank you baby, that treat is just for Chicken.
Chicken: (points to freezer) Mommy need one?
Me: Mommy doesn't need a treat right now, baby. Mommy is trying to be skinny. 

That is something I would never in a million years say to a daughter. Trying to be skinny? Who even says that out loud? I could have had the same thought but sent the implication soaring over his head by saying, "Mommy is trying to be healthy." But I didn't.

I said it automatically, without thinking, without choosing my words. Which means that, in addition to being horrible, it's also true. Mommy is trying to be skinny. 

I gained about 45 pounds with each of my pregnancies. I didn't worry about the weight gain because I ate well, if generously, and stayed very active, exercising 3 or 4 days a week up until both birth days. I still think I gained a perfectly healthy amount of weight.

After Chicken was born I started going to hot yoga three times a week. I taught my young baby how to nap in his crib, and luckily he took to it so I could ride our stationary bike during non-yoga days. I got back in shape very quickly.

The difference this time around?

First, I looked pregnant at about day 6. My body lived longer in a stretched-out state, and it's taking longer to recoil. I'm spending longer in stretchy pants. My belly is kind of... Floppy. Flappy. Just imagine a melty snowman. Used to be round and jolly. Now kind of wilted and scary.

And exercise is harder. Yoga is just so depressing right now. It's hard to breathe victoriously in side-angle pose when you can feel your soft belly rolls bunching up against your thigh.

I can't steal bike workouts during the day because I can't just teach my Buster how to nap in a crib in his cool, dark, quiet room. I have a Chicken. No such room exists in my house.

I don't have 45 minutes a day 4 times a day every day to swaddle him, nurse him, and cuddle him down so he gets used to his crib. I have 45 seconds to strap him in the baby carrier and walk briskly around the house until he's snoring. 

I remember feeling such a sense of reverent wonder for my body after Chicken's birth- who gave a shit about a little extra padding around my hips? I made and nourished a perfect tiny human being, toenails to eyelashes, out of thin fucking air. I was practically a wizard. I walked tall and truly did not give a shit how quickly I lost weight and got back in jeans with a button waist.

I don't feel quite so magical this time. Mostly I just feel paunchy and sweaty. 

Because I am a mother to two young sons, I've devoted most of my parenting energies to teaching emotional intelligence and empathy, something young boys often struggle to develop. I've spent exactly zero mom hours thinking about how to talk body image, health, and beauty with my boys.

I thought I was exempt from the headache of teaching healthy body image. Then I said my stupid thing, and I imagined what my son could learn from that simple statement, "mommy is trying to be skinny."

1. Mommy isn't skinny.
2. It's bad that Mommy isn't skinny.
3. Skinny is better than not skinny.
4. Skinny means no treats.
5. Mommy shouldn't have treats.

I don't want to be responsible for teaching my boys any of that nonsense. Because boys can feel bad about their bodies too. And because I want my boys to grow into men who will pick partners, male or female, who are more interested in what a body can do than in what it looks like.

I don't want my boys to think that the right way for a woman to be is pinched and hungry, always bragging about how she's only eaten a yogurt today.

I want them to want to enjoy a good meal with their dates.

I want them to adopt Ryan's loving way of feeding his family good food.

I want them to pick partners who will talk about their lives while they run or bike together. I want them to pick partners who will remind them to go to the dentist, who will encourage them to exercise, eat well, give to charity, and be kind because it makes them FEEL better.

I want them to strive for true health, not superficial appeal born of asceticism and shame.

And hey, quick reminder: our children love us for our softness. They want space on our laps. The pillow of a mother's shoulder is the safest place in the world. 

Tonight I'm just thankful that Chicken is 2 and I've still got some time to rehearse before the cameras get hot and shit gets real. I'm going to eat a Popsicle and read about body image verbiage.


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