26 Jun 2012

How to see your body through your daughter’s eyes

There’s an uncomfortable part of my arms I do not like.

Between shoulder and elbow there’s a sort of soft, squishy no-man’s land that testifies to my love for sugar and the three kids who make finding time for lifting weights more complicated than say, a stolen nap.

I believe some people call it their bicep.

To me it’s the part of my arm I try to disguise under recent fashion trends {how I love thee beautiful, brilliant bat sleeve tunic top}. But my daughter? To her it’s something else entirely.

To her that warm, soft part of my arm is her security blanket.

When Zoe wilts against me after long days in the sun or running after the boys or chasing Wolfie, she sinks her head into my shoulder and one small chubby hand wraps around my upper arm. Tightly. Always tightly.

Those tiny fingers wrap and re-wrap around my arm.

She holds on and lets go. She strokes my arm. She hums to herself, off-key like her mother. And then she unfurls small crab fingers and pinches that arm. Pinches and soothes and keeps stroking slower and slower as her humming fades.

Years before I knew my own mother would wilt away to nothing before my eighteen-year-old eyes, I remember a morning I buried all my teenage angst in her bosom. I snuggled up to her and just let myself sink into the soft, welcome comfort.

Her arms enveloped all my awkward angles.

She smelled like sunshine. So much joy beating just below the surface. I think she was wearing the mauve knit sweater top. I know I mumbled into her body the words I wanted to say out loud – when will I find my curves?

She laughed, turned up The Boss and promised me that they’d come with my first baby.

So tonight when I rock and roll my third in the white rocking chair with the faded yellow padding and she strokes my arm I smile in the dark at my curves. Those secret places that magazines write articles on how to hide – embarrassed of our post pregnancy body image – determined to sell us a cure for how we look.

I’m not buying.

I rock and hum and maybe tomorrow I’ll slip on my three times a week or so running shoes and sweat some miles. But not because anyone shamed me. No, not this body. Not this mother. Not for this daughter. She will know I run because it makes me feel strong, disciplined and also, strangely at the same time, free.

Like dancing with her brothers in the rain. Or practicing my Russian.

She will grow up to know that I loved the body she loved. Even my arms.

Especially my arms.



{ Leave a Comment }
  1. 1

    How wonderful. Well done you.
    I have a long way to go before I can feel like that. I know it in my head but I can’t seem to believe it in my heart.
    Thanks for showing me what’s out there beyond the mountain that I’m on.

  2. 2

    Oh Lisa-Jo! Now I REALLY want to sit and visit with you awhile. A long while. I’d take you for a run and we’d feel our strength. It’s taken me a long while to run for a different purpose and (for now at least) I’ve finally arrived.

    Your memories of your mother are a gift. I trust you know that. It’s painful to recall, I’m sure, though the age you were at then will surely be a gift in how you parent Zoe.

    Rich blessings as He leads you to accepting how your body is and what it does and what it represents. {hugs} sweet, friend.

  3. 3

    oh, this just made my day… Dankie!! Its hard to accept that your body changes, but its such a blessing actually… who cares what the fashion mags say!

  4. 4

    As a mother of six, who struggles with the left behind belly that is soft, I needed that. My husband adores it-I abhor it. I work out and keep wishing it will disappear. Perhaps I won’t fret over it quite so much now. Thank you.

  5. 5

    So beautiful. You know, it doesn’t seem to matter what I do, the belly stays soft, the upper arms jiggle…but this, this post reminds me that it’s OK. Thanks, Lisa-Jo.

    What a wonderful gift you have given many of us today. Did you read this post by Deidra Riggs: http://www.deidrariggs.com/2012/06/25/mom-in-the-mirror/ kind of a similar theme and it helped me too.

    Maybe when I go to the beach in a couple of weeks I will not be so self-conscious.

    Thanks again.

  6. 6

    Oh my, I use love this so much.

  7. 7

    a little misty-eyed at how beautiful this is. oh how royally i screwed this up in my mid-thirties. you’re in such a great place and i’m so glad you are writing about it.

    • 8
      Lisa-Jo says:

      I write it to help me believe it. I write prophetically :) So that it will be true. I want this to be my story. If I write it, I start to believe it. I claim it. I stand in faith for this poor, beloved body of mine :)

      • 9

        Both your post and this response could’ve come out of my typing fingers! Crazy….I just may need to read more :) lol

  8. 10

    Oh wise friend, you spoke directly to my heart (and my arms!) today. As my own girl is now nearly a teenager, I realize that one of the greatest gifts I will ever give her is to love myself – who I am and how I am – so that she will be free to do the same for herself.

  9. 12
    Heather says:

    Thank you for helping me see my body thru my kiddos’ eyes. Pushing down on my marshmallow stomach to make a comfy seat. Telling me how pretty my hair is or my eyes (features unaffected by birthing babies…well except the handfuls of hair falling out lately…) Anyway…yes, let’s exercise for healthy minds and bodies. My friend (also a mom of 4 boys) has a shirt she wears..”I run so I dont run away” Ha!!

    • 13

      Annnnnd now I need that TShirt too!

      • 14

        in searching online for that shirt I found the following: “I run for bacon” (amen!), “I run because…I actually dont know why I run”, “I run with Kenyans” and of course, “I run like a girl, just try to keep up”. ;)

  10. 15

    Thank you! I am struggling with post-baby weight and have been trying to embrace this body that helped create four beautiful children. I have been searching for words to empower me to love my body even though it is not perfect and you articulated them perfectly.

    Thank you. Namaste.

  11. 16

    Lovely. I relate so much to this post! Isn’t it beautiful how God can use our little ones to make us love & see ourselves the way He sees us?

  12. 17

    Thank you Lisa-Jo for writing this. After having our first I was blessed to walk out of the hospital 10lbs lighter than I was before getting pregnant. I thought the same would happen after our triplets were born. I weigh the same now as I did at 34 weeks with them. I try to love myself, then feel guilty when I accept this body, but there is no time to eat right, let alone run.

    Thank you. Thank you!

    • 18

      TRIPLETS??? Girl, your body deserves a medal. You should break out into song every time you see it in the mirror. Your body is HERO!!! Give it something delicious right now. For reals.

  13. 19

    Such a sweet image of your daughter snuggling down into you, her arm wrapped securely around yours. Isn’t it dear how they grab onto part of you?
    I had a niece who would grab/pinch onto the skin just at the bottom of your neck. Ouch. I have to say I prefer the arms approach. ;-)

  14. 20
    Sharon O says:

    This is so beautiful. The world tells us we should have size 0 looks and that is so untrue.
    You inspire so many. God is pleased with you. Keep encouraging the ones who struggle.
    Good job.

  15. 21

    I love this post so much. You have no idea. Or maybe you do.

  16. 22

    Beautiful! Thank you for this:)

  17. 23

    My son who is 9 says my flabby arms ( triceps?) are JUICY! :)

  18. 24

    As I read this beautiful post, I glance down at my nine-month pregnant body, wondering what it will look like when I meet this little girl. You’ve erased much of the angst and the hurry about getting my body back to “normal” as quick as possible. Maybe there really is a “new normal”!

  19. 25

    This is beautiful! Every mom should read this.
    Thank You

  20. 26

    Loved this!!! I am not a mommy, yet, but cannot wait! I shared this on Facebook in addition to your “I am more than my swimsuit” for all my mommy friends to read. Thanks for the encouragement!

  21. 27

    Amen to all the other commenters! My children think I’m a great hugger because I’m not skin and bones. They sigh into me. I exercise and am trying to get fit, but I try not to stress about it. Thanks for the encouragement today!

  22. 28
    Kaelynn Juddd says:

    Thanks for the encouragement once again. I gave birth just four weeks ago and I’ve been having a hard time accepting my new body. This is a great reminder that my appearance is not what defines me.

  23. 29

    Lisa-Jo, this touched me. My own little girl loves that same spot above my elbow, stroking and pinching as she rested her tired baby head on my shoulder. Now she is four years old and she still runs to me, checking in with a few strokes on that favorite spot on my arm, just above my elbow.
    I watch what I eat and exercise to be strong and active to play with her and live a long and healthy life with her. Not because of external ideas of beauty.

  24. 30

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I’m so glad I found your blog!!!

  25. 32

    This post is just *one* more reson why I read and adore you. I have always loathed my squishy arms, and you have given me something to sonsider next time I’m cursing my jiggly non-biceps in the mirror. Bless you, girlfriend, you are a treasure.

  26. 33

    I love when you speak about your mother. It does my heart good. Thank you, Lisa Jo. I appreciate your memories of her.

  27. 34
    ACsMama says:

    Awww! I love this!!!
    I still remember my first year teaching (PreK, so 4/5 year-olds – wonderfully honest!), one day we were watching a movie and all sitting on the rug together and one of my boys leaned over on my arm. After a minute he looked up at me and said, “Miss A, your arms are so….squishy! They are perfect like pillows.” And then he snuggled up against me once more and sighed contentedly. Of course a few others who had heard what he said had to come try out my other “pillow arm,” and the general consensus was that I had perfect squishy pillow arms that were just right for snuggling.
    Out of the mouths of babes!

    And I think I am okay with that.

  28. 35

    Lisa-Jo, what wonderful memories of your mother! And what lovely memories your building with your own little one. And what confidence and courage you’re giving the rest of us, especially us grandmas who are too round in places we never wanted to be round! I’m not buying either — I want the little ones to have soft, sweet memories of me! :) Thank you, dear one, for speaking the truth.

  29. 36

    LOVE this. I hate my arms (and many other body parts, too) but I’m really trying to be more loving towards this body of mine and grateful for what it has done for me over the years. The granddaughter we care for a couple of days a week does this exact thing that Zoe does – when she gets sleepy, the hands creep up the sleeve (I always have to remember to wear something with loosely fitted sleeves when she’s here!). Thankfully, she doesn’t pinch, but just gently strokes. So sweet – and I will miss it when she grows out of it. Not as favored is when she wants to lift my shirt to check out the tummy. I have pretty successfully trained her to go for just the arms when she’s here. :>) Some insults I cannot yet bear.

  30. 37

    I have to confess, I almost deleted this post 3 times before I forced myself to read it. From the title, my spirit knew it was a message I needed to hear, but my flesh screamed no! I appreciate your powerful words of wisdom! I have much to think about today because I hide my body from my girls and speak often about my mommy belly and how much I loath it. Not a great message or example for them, a mamma who haw never accepted the way her Creator made her, even when she was nothing but lean muscle and energy. Thank you!

  31. 38

    I have a clear memory from childhood of snuggling up to my aunt’s shoulder…. and then complaining to her that her shoulder wasn’t soft enough. I preferred my mom’s more pillowy shoulders. I try to remember this when I’m feeling down– my extra-padding is perfect for snuggling small children… Thanks for helping me remember :)

  32. 39

    Love love LOVE it! You have reconciled with your body! LOVE IT! Thank you for such a perfectly well written view. I am sharing it with all my Thin Within ladies!

  33. 40

    These are the wisdoms I wish I’d known when I was your age. We didn’t have the internet…we didn’t have the words. We believed what the fashion magazines told us. We lived by standards that expected us to be all…have all…know all. Your precious little girl will have her own issues…as every generation does…but they won’t be the sad ones of old. Thank you. Thank you for expressing all of this….

  34. 41

    Personally I think we’re supposed to be snuggly cuddly! My husband likes me soft, (It’s taken many difficult years of weight gain, let me tell you!! Being skinny sucks on so many levels!), my baby likes me soft, and I (which is most important) like me soft. I’m not overweight in any manner of means, but years ago I used to body build (for weight gain, no competitions) and in comparison, I like me softer! Sure, I’d like my butt to go back up to where it started, but I like that I have one now! Every woman has nostalgia about a flat stomach (even if they are fleeting and soon forgotten), but my bumpy one held my precious baby for nine months – I’m entitled to bumps, thanks!
    And when my kids have their own kids, I want to be a cuddly granny.

  35. 42

    You know how sad I am that I didn’t believe this while I raised my daughters? So, so sad. It is an area I did not model well for my girls. My youngest is 19 and she has never once heard me say a good thing about my body. Oh I wish I could change it.

    So Lisa-Jo, keep up the good work. I know you won’t regret it.

  36. 43

    this is so beautifully written

  37. 44

    Love this – thank you!

  38. 45

    Beautiful words that are very encouraging and helpful. Thank you.

  39. 46

    I love you all the more for this post. In this summer, bathing-suit-filled season, praise God for obedient, godly women like you who speak Truth and remind us of how He sees us.

  40. 47

    such healing and kind words, not only for yourself, but all of us mommies who are struggling with our post-baby bodies. Thank you!

  41. 48

    Such a beautiful post and so inspiring for those of us who suffer from body image issues after pregnancy.

  42. 49

    I love love LOVE this article! Thanks for writing it. I want to remember it, and refer to it often.


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  4. […] in my arms and slowly beginning the ritual of stroking my right arm. Her curls are warm and sweaty and that pudgy baby cheek fits just under my […]

  5. […] in my arms and slowly beginning the ritual of stroking my right arm. Her curls are warm and sweaty and that pudgy baby cheek fits just under my […]

  6. […] in my arms and slowly beginning the ritual of stroking my right arm. Her curls are warm and sweaty and that pudgy baby cheek fits just under my […]

  7. […] in my arms and slowly beginning the ritual of stroking my right arm. Her curls are warm and sweaty and that pudgy baby cheek fits just under my […]

  8. […] in my arms and slowly beginning the ritual of stroking my right arm. Her curls are warm and sweaty and that pudgy baby cheek fits just under my […]

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