teens and eating disorders

After two children, an insane amount of Mexican food and a fairly light exercise routine — picking up kids toys and carrying a 35-pound 1-year-old counts! — my body has an interesting, but loving consistency.

It's jelly, but it's mine.

Being a woman with a full woman body, I dress for myself and my mood, and my hair and my day. It is MY body. It took a few decades to have this confidence with my body, to own it as my own body; and I thank my children and my husband for that confidence.

I wish for my daughter to skip that long agonizing portion of life where women do not like their bodies. Where we nitpick, hide, starve and belittle ourselves. I wish for her the tools I needed to have been a better reflection of self.

Kids learn by example, and being the only other female in the household, and her mother, it starts with me.

Honesty has never been a problem with my beloved 4-year old daughter, and she speaks her truth whenever she speaks — which is often. Sitting on her throne (my toilet), we pointed out certain truths about my body while I got ready for the day. Some I was not ready for.

It was silly of me to assume her only questions would be about my stretch marks/tiger stripes/warrior stripes on my stomach. No, the speech I had prepared that morning for that was not required. She immediately bypassed any hope I had for a strong feminist speech about body love standing in my underwear, and went straight to my long forgotten history.

My large, uneven, faded back tattoo I received after collecting my first tax return at the age of 18.

Now let’s just stop here for one second. Tattoos are awesome. I love personalizing one's self by using the body as a canvas to show identity and story and strength. I wish for more than my one faded, large fairy woman tattoo I received during my "hippie phase," but needles hurt and my pain threshold can barely handle a stubbed toe. So there's that.

“You got paint on your back? When do I get paint on my back? When I’m a mama too?”

“Well, yes and no. You can get paint on you when you are older, but you have to be sure you want to have paint on you. This paint stays forever, and sometimes you might be a different person at different times and might change your mind on what you want on your body that describes who you are. I still like my paint, because it’s fun to remember who I was when I was a younger person.”

She seemed confused with my answer, but not sure how to proceed to further investigate so I took that as a mother win.

Until.

“You have hair in other places.”

“OK, yeah, well, that’s a thing.”

I felt that was enough of body positivity training for one morning, and we moved on to the importance of Stevie Nicks and the song "Landslide."

Teaching this young girl about womanhood will be an ongoing series of lessons that we will go through together, hand in hand. We'll go together no matter how hard or, at times, humiliating, heartbreaking and hilarious it is. Because being a woman and acknowledging ourselves and our body we put out in the world is brave.

If I’m brave and present — even with faded old tattoos, stretch marks and other questionable things from the mainstream norm — she might grow to be brave and present too.

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Kristine Rohwer resides in Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband, step-son, daughter, son and two neurotic dogs.

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