When I was a teacher, I had a parent pull me aside to talk to me about a concern she had for her child. Her child was a sweet girl, quiet, yet spunky and fun. She was very cooperative and helpful and she was kind to her classmates. I couldn’t imagine what her mom wanted to discuss with me, so, I quickly stopped what I was doing and leaned in, giving her my full attention as now my concern for her child was now rising in the moments it took for her to bottom line the issue. The mom, standing before me layered in tennis gear, dried sweat and faded perfume, laid out a short, short story that described how her daughter was eating less and inquiring more about her mother’s workout regimen and weight, saying things like, “I want a body like yours.” or “I want to be skinny like you.” Of course, the mother was worried and inquired about her daughter’s habits at school, was she eating all of her lunch, did I notice any changes in her attitude or behavior. . . Of course as children reach puberty their mental and emotional capacities change as their bodies change but this student of mine was in third grade. She was cute and she was appropriately baby fat. She had the sweetest little round face that boasted peach plump cheeks when she smiled, which she did most of her days at school. She was really an adorable little girl.
I understood the mother’s concern then but I understand it even more now as I watch my little girls watch me and listen to their questions about what I am doing and why. It’s a paradox; we work so hard to show and prove that we are “grown” however we are yet the taller, fuller, wiser version of these little girls. Our journey started the same way theirs did, we are but on the other side of the continuum. We have to live conscious of their ever watching eyes. We must take care of ourselves while we emphasize the real places that beauty comes from.
I’m sure that my student saw her mom’s habit of eating certain things (and not eating certain things), keeping active, the comments she made about herself/her body and wondered about her own simple habits in a very innocent way. I’m also sure that as she took her mom in everyday, admired all that she is and wanted to emulate that, she may have thought that she fell short because of the limitations presented to her by her age. Somehow we must figure out how to really see our girls and connect with the spirit in them that is still inside of us. We still have a sense of wonder, a great admiration for the woman we’d like to someday become, and a great deal of questions for how in the world we are going to get there. As we figure out how to embrace our journey, we have to grab their little hands and show them to how to do the same. Living beautifully is embracing our journey as fully as we can as we determine to live with intention, awareness and joy to aid in the journey of another. Oh yes, we are our sister’s keeper, and our daughter’s, our nieces . . . and our students’ too.