Riley is becoming even more aware of everyone around him these days. His favorite/obsessive thing lately is bellies. Tummy, stomach, belly button, baby house - whatever is there, he wants to see it. He is constantly in awe of the fact that everyone around him has a tummy just like he does, and is fascinated by how different they all look.
I grew up very aware of my tummy and everyone else’s around me, too. Unfortunately I don’t remember the bright smiley stage Riley is in, when I didn’t yet understand the negative comments about bellies that have floated around my ears my entire life. What I want to tell you now is this: your belly is beautiful. My siblings and parents may read that with my oldest-sister-inflection voice applied. That’s okay, but I want all of you - family, friends, and even those of you who don’t know me personally - please listen to and accept these words.
If Riley (or any other kiddo in your life, dear people who do not see us in the physical world) comes to you and wants to see your belly (if you see him anytime in the reasonable near future, I can guarantee this will happen), he will be very insistent. The boy is my son, so understand his stubbornness when he refuses to let it go if you refuse to lift your shirt. I’m not saying you have to obey his commands (as his parent I take responsibility for redirecting him when he needs it), but what I am saying is this: be careful what you say when you respond to his request. Please. Oldest-child bossy voice removed, I’m pleading with you. Do not tell him that your belly is ugly, fat, awful, or any other negative descriptor that comes into your brain. Because I’m here to tell you, body image issues are not solely owned by females.
For the entirety of my life, I’ve been aware of how imperfect my body is. I relate to women who struggle with being happy with their weight, so a number of my friends also have this problem. It runs more heavily in my family circle than friends though. With a family whose females greatly outnumber males, the body-shaming conversations are far too many when we gather. Someone is always too thin, we’re always too fat, and no one is ever happy with themselves. I’m not ever going to say that is okay. That’s a converstation for another time because I could write for hours on what is wrong with that. I do not want this for Riley, so please don’t pollute my son’s brain with that nonsense. Whether you can see it or not, you are beautiful. Every bit of you. If you don’t like the way your belly looks, tell Riley you’re keeping it covered so it doesn’t get cold. Or just say, “No thank you!” if you don’t want to join the belly party. Or try to distract him with any of the following subjects: airplanes, helicopters, noses, ears, hockey, golf, bunnies, drums, or guitars, or ukuleles. Silly sound effects and grand physical movements are an added bonus that may work for 30 seconds or so before he asks again (this is when we redirect). :)
If you want to tell him anything else about it, tell him that’s where your food is (but not that you ate too much and it’s getting fat, with a negative connotation or tone). Tell him that’s where you grew a tiny human (if you’ve done so, of course - I don’t advocate straight up lying). Show him your belly button piercing if you have one and you want to. Tell him there’s an alien in there (it isn’t lying if you get creative and make up a funny story…but I will blame you if he has bad dreams about alien bellies). Whatever it is, tell him something that isn’t negative. Please and thank you.
The short of this post is, I want Riley to be proud and amazed at what his body can do, and to be in awe of everyone else’s body, too. Even if and when his body fails him, appreciation for what he has includes all of him. He should also have an appreciation of and respect for others, no matter what their bellies look like. Our bodies really are amazing and beautiful. I didn’t truly believe this myself until creating that tiny human. Also please know that this isn’t a finger-pointing post. Every time he wants to see my tummy, I force myself to find something to say that’s…just, I don’t know…normal? Not shaming. Lately my favorite is telling him about when he lived in there and used to stick his toes under my ribs and roll around. He doesn’t understand that yet, but it sure does make me smile. And it beats the hell out of focusing on an area I’m typically insecure about. So go on y’all, think of something cool about that belly of yours…or nose, or ears, or hair, or…whatever Riley may ask you about next. :)
And now, a column of cute:
Too many sugar cookies this holiday season? Help Ri make some in his new mixer from Santa. We’ll eat them for you.
The uke master played for Christmas monkeys. Then he forced me to play a tune. Insistent, I tell you.
For the love of big bunny - he shared snuggles with us both.
We’re always reading about airplanes around here. Great topic for distraction!
Hockey! The kid is pretty good, even holding the stick with two hands and hitting the puck most of the time.
This is the pride I want him to always feel. He’d never been able to get onto these stairs until this day…
Look at that beaming smile!
If he spots a plane, it will be pointed out. So if you’re outside and get a belly request, try looking to the skies. :)
After a morning of messy painting, Riley has no issues going outside baring his belly.
After investigating Monica’s baby house (belly!), he ran over to show me his. Love it even in its blurry iPhone form.
This kiddo brings a lot of joy to this world. Let’s give it right back to him, and the rest of the world too. :)
And don’t feel bad if you eat all the cookies…
Yay, you made it to the end of the post! Have a wonderful day, beautiful. :)