This is a milestone year for me: You’d Be So Pretty If…, the book I wrote to help moms raise healthy, confident girls (even if they themselves aren’t feeling too confident), turned five years old this year.
And that little girl who inspired the book? She’s about to head off to college.
I know, right?
When I look at her, and at my son, it’s amazing to see how much they’ve changed in the past five years. They’ve both grown from children into young adults. They drive, they’ve learned new skills and they’ve physically transformed into different people. All of this is perfectly acceptable – the natural order of how things are supposed to be.
Why, then, is it so unsettling to see physical transformation in myself?
As a positive body image advocate who’s spent years reminding women of the powerful example they set with the words they use to describe themselves, it’s hard to make this confession to you all: I sometimes have to bite my tongue when I spot a gray hair or another freckle on my skin or notice the beginnings of a pooch just below the waistline of my favorite skirt.
Really, what did I expect? That time would stand still for me while my kids showed the physical signs of getting older?
I know that the words I used —or didn’t — about my extra pounds or the shape of my thighs helped mold my daughter’s body image as she was growing up. I also know that the words I use about getting older now will color her experience of aging. I’m always bothered when I hear women talking about how much happier they’d be if they could “just get back down to 125 pounds” or “go back to wearing the same size” they wore in high school.
It’s the back that bothers me.
In a 2009 piece for VIV magazine called “Welcome to Your New (Old) Body,” I wrote these words: “Nothing stays the same – children grow up, marriages end, parents die and jobs change. Yet how many of us berate ourselves because our body doesn’t look the same as it did when we were 20?”
That’s really the secret, isn’t it? There’s no going back, even if we want to. There’s only forward – and the decision of whether to move forward gracefully or stay stuck in trying to re-create what was. For me, moving forward with grace isn’t about giving up or letting go. It’s about seeing — really seeing — the person I am today and taking the best possible care of her. It’s about appreciating what she has to offer and actively deciding what her next adventure will be, understanding that change is always an opportunity to do something new.
Sitting here, on the cusp of this beginning of the next chapter in my daughter’s life – and in my own – it hits me hard. I could spend my time looking back. Or, like her, I can take a deep breath, turn the page and bravely move forward.
See you in the next chapter.