“Why do you have a big belly?” my four-your-old, Ginny, asked my friend.
Oh boy. It happened. I hoped none of my girls would ever say anything like that, but being children they say what they think. And, Ginny asked the question out of genuine curiosity.
My friend replied to her, “I love food.”
A great answer, but I wanted to let Ginny know it wasn’t appropriate to ask people about the size of their bellies. Heck, the size of anything on their bodies. Immediately, I started to respond, “That’s not a nice thing to say,” but stopped myself before I finished it.
I want my daughters to feel comfortable in their own skin and love themselves. I also want them to recognize that not everyone is the same; all people come in different shapes, sizes, and colors, and there is no shame in that. If I said it wasn’t nice to point out someone having a bigger belly, wouldn’t I actually being saying there is something wrong with my friend? Wouldn’t I also be implying there is something inherently wrong with a big belly?
So, I took a deep breath, and instead said, “Ginny, we don’t comment on people’s bodies. It’s rude. No more asking questions like that.” Ginny seemed to think on that and said, “okay.”
The next day at dinner, Ginny looked at her daddy, patted his belly and asked him why his belly was fat. My husband, having been told about the conversation with my friend, said that he probably ate too much and needed to “Mousekersize” more (Ginny’s word for exercise). After he answered, I reminded Ginny of our conversation from the day before, I explained it was rude to ask people a question like that.
Ginny wasn’t satisfied with that response. She wanted to understand. So, Ginny asked why it was rude. I contemplated my words carefully. Again, trying to avoid any fat-shaming language, but also letting her know there are boundaries and things we don’t say to each other in a way that a four-year-old would understand.
I told my curious child that we don’t ask the questions because not everyone wants to answer questions about their body; that some people might not like their body parts and feel uncomfortable when someone asks them about it. I explained to Ginny that no matter how curious she was, there are some questions that are rude and not proper to ask others.
Again, Ginny seemed to think about my answer. Then, she looked at me across the dinner table and asked me, “Mommy, do you like your belly?”
I smiled, and said, “Yes, Ginny. I love my belly.”
“Great question, Sweetie.” I responded. “I love my belly because you were once in my belly as was your sister Grace. I love my belly because I am now carrying your baby sister in it. How can I not love a belly that can do all that?”
Satisfied, Ginny ate the rest of her dinner (or should I say ate what she wanted from her dinner and avoided the rest) with no more words about bellies or the sizes of them.
This morning as I got the girls dressed for our day, Ginny patted my belly and asked why it kept getting bigger. This time I didn’t scold her or remind her about how rude the question can be. Instead, I answered her.
“Well, Ginny, the baby in Mommy’s belly keeps getting bigger. As the baby gets bigger so does my belly.”
Ginny looked up at me and asked, “Will it get smaller soon?”
I chuckled a bit. “Not for a while. My belly will keep growing until your baby sister is born. Then, for a while my belly will stay big, but eventually it will get smaller again.”
Satisfied, Ginny kissed my belly and finished getting dressed.
Perhaps that’s why Ginny asked my friend and husband about their bellies. She just wanted to know if there was a baby in their belly. Or, maybe she was just being a curious four-year-old asking questions about what she observed. No matter, I hope she learns that everyone looks different and there is no shame in being big, small, or somewhere between.