a beautiful body

Eleanor’s bedtime routine looks a little something like this: I take her upstairs for her bath or a simple hand-and-face washing if that’s all that’s necessary or we are running late (which is most evening). This hand-and-face washing usually turns into some feet washing too, which typically results in a few minutes of us hiding her feet under the washcloth and her squealing in delight every time I say “Uh, oh. Eleanor! where did your foot go?” to which she replies “Right here!” and pulls the rag away with great excitement as she laughs at seeing her feet emerge. Next we brush her teeth, which means that she chews on the toothbrush for a minute or so and then I actually brush them, and head into her room where her dad takes over- changing into PJs, selecting and reading books, turning out the light, a quick back rub, and then one last kiss before he leaves her to fall asleep.
{Lately some portion of the transfer from mom to dad has also involved a great deal of crying (“I want my mommy”) and some frustration on Tim’s part that she’s not adjusted to this, a routine we’ve maintained for at least 9 months now. He’s not taking it personally, which is good, but it’s still hard to know that he’s dealing with it on more nights that either of us would like. But I digress…}

Last night, after my portion of the bedtime routine, I was puttering around in the bathroom cleaning out the crap extra stuff under the sink when I heard Tim say something to Eleanor that gave me pause. “Eleanor,” he said. “You have a beautiful body.”

A few months ago I wrote about the degree to which girls are praised for their looks, and how infrequently we ask them questions that relate to their interests or hobbies (or directly engage their intellectual curiosity), so when I heard Tim (who is the kind of father that would rather encourage Eleanor’s love of books, or bugs, than eye shadow or handbags) tell Eleanor that she had a beautiful body I wondered where he was going with it.

He continued. “Look at these two legs of yours. They are so strong. They help you run and jump and balance. And look at this belly. It helps you turn all the good food you eat into energy that helps you play and grow.” He continued from one body part to another, describing how many she had of each (two eyes and one brain) and detailing all the wonderful things those body parts allowed her two do (“…a nose for smelling flowers, and two strong arms for hugging and holding your animals, and two ears that let you hear the birds singing and music playing…”).

The room was silent but for his voice, which was soft; soft enough to suggest that he was close to her, fully engaged in their time together. There was not a sound coming from Eleanor either, no stirring, kicking against the wall, or rustling of the sheets- sounds that usually suggest her typical toddler fidgeting. I stood motionless in the doorway, listening.

When he finished there was a moment of silence. I imagined Eleanor internalizing, at such a young age, this deeply important lesson about all that she, in her body (the very body that she has and not one that she thinks she should have), is capable of and at that moment I couldn’t remember the last time I was so moved.

And I wasn’t the only one.

After several seconds of silence I heard Eleanor’s response: “More daddy.”

_DC22958
_DC22958

{2014- an update:  I continue to be overwhelmed by the positive response that this post generates and am honored that so many people are willing to share it widely with their audience, family, and friends. It has even been turned into a short video as part of a series of resources available from Bolster Collaborative , whose mission is to provide inspiration, evidence-based resources, and strategies to support positive youth development. Although I’m not sure that seeing Eleanor and hearing my voice actually adds to this story – sometimes hearing your  own voice read things like this makes it all the more personal – I decided that this was a message worth sharing and trying multiple media for doing so was worth the risk. Thank you for reading; I hope you  find other things on this site that resonate.)

Advertisements

116 thoughts on “a beautiful body

  1. I a so glad to see this again on “Mighty Gil” I read it a few months back and have started doing this with my little girl every night. I love, love, love this special time with her. I cannot thank you enough for sharing this.

    Like

  2. I have a 3 year old girl called Eleanor (!) Her relationship with her father,my husband,is a huge part of what makes her so fearless, so open and so keen to throw herself at life that she has permanently grazed knees and shins. We do tell her often that she is beautiful, but the drive to do so comes from her mother’s bitter memories of childhood bullying. We will both focus on reminding her how wonderful and useful her body is, as Tim’s fine example shows.

    Like

    1. We agree with you: “for both girls and boys”. And now with a son, we see even more how important giving him the same message is, if for no other reason than he might grow up to share it with his own daughter some day.

      Like

  3. A friend shared this on FB. I am child-free (a choice) and so touched, grateful and happy for parents like you and your husband. Just beautiful. Thank you.

    Like

  4. I’m no toddler. I needed to hear this myself. Thank you. 🙂 Funny, I see this is an old post but it’s making it’s way around again. So glad.

    Like

  5. Fantastic. Shared on twitter and on my blogs facebook page. I have a daughter the same age as yours and my wife and I have had this discussion often. We want her to feel beautiful, but for the right reasons. Your husband just made that a little easier for me. Thank you.
    John

    Like

  6. I don’t remember if I commented on this before or not but…I Love this, So beautiful and so wonderful that your husband is taking the time now to instill beautiful GOOD healthy self image that is truthful I just love everything about it.

    Like

  7. YES!! YES, YES, YES!!! What a marvelous message to send to all of our young girls from an early age. Beauty is NOT glamourous hair, make up or clothes. If we all recieved this message, it would be about taking care of those beautiful bodies, enabling them to do what they’re meant to do, not punishing ourselves for not measuring up to someone else’s vision. We wouldn’t “need” fancy clothes, make-up or hair that’s been colored, teased and sprayed by harmful chemicals to feel our best. THANK-YOU, THANK-YOU, THANK-YOU!! BTW, I think your husband needs to write a book about this very thing…

    Like

  8. I am so glad Mighty Girl shared this on their page. Thank you for sharing this beautiful, intimate, real and teachable moment. I love reading about these kinds of things, they are little gems that help me be a better parent! Thank you!

    Like

  9. goosebumps. such an important lesson to be learned, not just by toddlers, but to all of us, at any age. God gave us such a blessing by creating our bodies. it’s amazing all the things we can do, no matter what the shape our size of our body. thanks for sharing this intimate story. it needs to be passed on ❤

    Like

  10. I’m glad this appears to be making the rounds again and again. I found this via A Mighty Girl’s Facebook page. Lovely story you shared for us. I also love watching my husband with our daughter and their relationship gives me such peace – removes so much worry about my daughter. Whatever life may bring, she is growing up knowing her daddy loves her, values her and respects her and that is worth so much.

    Like

  11. This is just so beautiful… I shared it with my hubby! Thank you so much for sharing how important it is for daddies to connect with their daughters in this way 🙂

    Like

  12. This is going to go viral. Thank your husband for empowering your daughter, and thank you for writing about it when it happened. Beautiful.

    Like

    1. New Zealand!! One of my favorite places – in fact I’m getting a little weepy thinking about it. Thank you for letting me know that you’re there!

      Like

  13. How nice! I will do this with my little granddaughter. I like to talk about how amazing it is that our pinkie fingers are perfect for scratching inside our ears, or picking our noses! 🙂 Hug that lovely husband/daddy you’ve got there.

    Like

  14. Wow. You’re all lucky to have one another, and Eleanor such a great dad. It’s such an important lesson. God Bless

    Like

  15. Such a beautiful story :’) Could I trouble someone for a direct link to the original post/blog she is referring to, about girls being praised for their looks?

    Like

      1. This is the link to the video. I would also like to see the original post, referenced in the article- the link in the article doesn’t work.

        Like

      2. This is the link to the video. I would also like to see the original post, referenced in the article- the link in the article doesn’t work.

        Like

  16. This was absolutely lovely to read, thank you so much for sharing it! (I found you via A Mighty Girl’s Facebook page). Your daughter is lucky to have you both for parents, and the world will be better off for having her in it if this is an example of how you’re raising her to think. I work with infants and toddlers (birth to age 3), and I find that people far underestimate the way messages resonate and take root at that age. The lesson you’ve described here will stay with her for the rest of her life, and hopefully ripple out into the way she views and treats others, and someday, her own children. I’m not a parent yet (far from it!) but someday I hope to be this kind of parent.

    Like

  17. This was absolutely lovely to read, thank you so much for sharing it! (I found you via A Mighty Girl’s Facebook page). Your daughter is lucky to have you both for parents, and the world will be better off for having her in it if this is an example of how you’re raising her to think. I work with infants and toddlers (birth to age 3), and I find that people far underestimate the way messages resonate and take root at that age. The lesson you’ve described here will stay with her for the rest of her life, and hopefully ripple out into the way she views and treats others, and someday, her own children. I’m not a parent yet (far from it!) but someday I hope to be this kind of parent.

    Like

  18. Good for your husband! This is a very touching story.

    I was recently introduced to your blog by my mother-in-law. I read your original post and read that HuffPo article a couple of years ago as well. I disagree with it. As a daddy of a 3 year old daughter, it is my job to help build her self confidence. It is my job to help her understand that she is beautiful and help her discover her femininity. If I don’t do it, then some day in the future, when some hormone-driven scum teenage boy tells her that, she could be putty in his hands and allow him to do what his hormones desire. My job is to protect her from allowing that to happen as much as I can. By me telling her that she is beautiful, and not only for her looks, when that boy tells her she’s beautiful she can say, "I know". I do agree that she should be well-rounded so I should build her self-confidence in other ways like her intellect (as suggested in the HuffPo article), her athletic ability, and so on.

    Like

    1. Chris and Joanna Jones,

      Thank you for your comment, but I have to argue that you and my husband (and me, since we agree) are actually talking about the same thing. Although I don’t explicitly state it here, I completely agree with you: I’m not trying to avoid telling our daughters (we now have two!) that they are beautiful, but I want them to measure the wealth and worth of their bodies – and themselves – by more than just their looks. Which is what you are describing as well. It seems to be that our girls are all fortunate to have parents who are giving them these messages.Kiyah

      Like

  19. As a child my father would say to me ‘you’d be a pretty girl if you just lost some weight’. I remember this from a very young age, as early as 8 or 10 I’d say. It never mattered what grade I would bring home on a test or from a class, my mother would question why it wasn’t higher, if it was a B why not an A an A why not an A+. I still have weight problems and I’ve never tested well. I developed panic attacks around testing and never went to college like my siblings. I don’t, and won’t, now can’t, have children of my own but I can attest to the importance of positive reinforcement and building self confidence at an early age. Undoing the mental programming that I have reinforced in myself for years is a long, expensive and difficult proposition. Of course my parents did not do anything intentionally. They loved me and thought they were being encouraging. Knowing that makes it easier to retrain my brain to other thoughts, and to remember to speak positively to my nieces and other children that I may find myself in a position to influence. 🙂 Thank you for sharing this lovely story!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s