At barely six-weeks-old, I was forced to engage in my daughter’s body image battle.
I visited the office of my periodontist in an effort to overhaul my terribly messed-up, post-pregnancy gums. With an hour round-trip to his office, my husband and I deemed it wise to keep our unpredictable eater close to her food source.
I set her car seat on the floor by my exam chair and mentally prepared for the poking and prodding ahead of me. As the doctor entered the room, he stepped around her car seat and then bent down to peer under the canopy protecting her.
“This is the new baby? Huh?”
Smiling, I nodded in affirmation.
“Red hair, huh?”
“Yes, we were a little surprised.” I replied. I babbled something about it coming from my dad’s side and how those genes must be strong. After only six weeks with a red head, I had learned that, “Who has red hair in the family?” usually came next. But, he surprised me.
This wasn’t the follow-up question I expected.
What Did You Just Say About My Daughter?
Taken aback, I stammered about it being a birthmark and not really knowing if it would change or move. What I really wanted was for him to just shut his mouth and start working on mine so we could get out of there.
At the tender age of six-weeks, my daughter faced the harsh reality of her first appearance assessment–her newborn beauty brought into question by a man sixty years her senior.
My first test as a girl mom. My first chance to figure out how to defend my daughter in her battle to be beautiful while, at the same time, trying to manage my internal reaction to someone’s criticism of my offspring. . .
And I failed. I froze. I said nothing.
Smiling in the Mirror
She’s seven now. To be honest, our biggest challenge in the body image arena is that she spends too much time smiling at herself in the mirror. She gets lost in her own happy expressions and then forgets to brush her teeth well.
Last year, right after she turned six, she noticed that mark on her forehead. The same one the periodontist was so “kind” to point out. It’s lightened up quite a bit since she was born, and hardly as noticeable. But, for the first time, she asked me about it. I watched her push her hair over it until it was fully covered, and then move it back again to compare.
“It’s a birthmark,” I told her. Then I showed her mine. I explained that most people have a special mark somewhere. Quickly bored with my birthmarks speech, she went back to playing.
I still have time.
And, I’m no longer paralyzed by fear as I think about helping her in this battle.