Body Image and My Sweet 6-year-old

Sitting in the doctor’s office waiting area, I notice that my 6 year old has picked up a copy of Us Weekly. She is fixated on the beautiful starlets in their gala gowns.

“You know what the funny thing is about those pictures?” I ask.

“What?”

“Every one of those pictures was put into a computer and made to look like a perfect drawing instead of a real woman,” I say, keeping my tone easy. “You know how many people it took to get the ladies ready for their pictures?”

“How many?” she inquires.

“Oh, so many,” I say. “One to fix her hair. One to do her makeup. Someone else to pick out her dress. Someone else who comes to her house to help her exercise. Isn’t that silly?!”

She keeps reading.

“So the pictures aren’t real,” I continue. “Do you know what I mean?”

“Yes.” She goes back to the pages with the dresses and the impossibly shapely figures.

I give it another moment. I hope my words take root. I have no idea if I’m getting this right or not.

To give those little seedling ideas about what is real and not real a fighting chance, I flip through the pile of remaining magazines and suggest a couple different reading choices.

“Actually, that magazine is for grownups, not for children,” I say. I am, after all, the mother.
“Here, try these.”

She whines a little—already the “Oh mawwwm”s have begun—but she sets aside the photoshopped perfection in favor of Family Fun and Sports Illustrated for Kids.

And a moment later, when my daughter is handed a balloon in her favorite color, she squeals with glee (Still! Yes!). That is a beautiful moment: the nurse’s obvious delight at lighting up a little girl’s eyes.

I breathe easier. I cross my fingers that our conversation has lodged somewhere in her beautiful brain as truth. For now, this is all I know to do: to place a bookmark for a future conversation, to pave the way for a heart-to-heart waiting to happen. I give my girl a smile, and sneak a kiss on the top of her head. That’s all for today.

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