To you, my constant. These are all the things I should have told you but never did...
To my eight-year-old body, thank you for carrying me up every tree I dared to climb and for holding on for dear life every time I sent you screaming down the hill in the go-kart. For repairing the scratches to my skin and healing the bruises I was forever covered in from all the adventuring. For the self-assurance that I could join in any game, I wanted without worrying if I was fast enough or strong enough. You supported my every whim and for that, I thank you.
To my thirteen-year-old body, I wish I’d supported you more. The turmoil I felt from puberty made me question everything about you and who you’d become. I loathed the dark leg hair you grew and relentlessly being made fun of because of it. I remember the morning I shaved my legs for the first time, sitting quietly in the base of the shower, scared of what my mother would say. That day a boy asked me out because I had shaved and it was the first time I was taught that other’s opinions of my body matter more than my own.
Be strict about bedtime. A study published in 2013 in the journal Pediatrics found that seven-year-olds who had irregular bedtimes had more behavioral problems than did those with consistent bedtimes. And the longer the lack of a strict bedtime went on, the worse the problems became. If you work outside the home, it's tempting to keep kids up to have more time with them. But as much as possible, stay the course—even if that means you sometimes miss lights out. "We all make sacrifices," says Heather Taylor, Ph.D., a psychologist at the Morrissey-Compton Educational Center, in Redwood City, California. "Call or video-chat to say good night. Just be part of the routine."
To my fourteen-year-old body, I wish I was more accepting of you. Standing on the blocks at the annual swim carnival wearing a red Mambo bikini, I’m sorry for how shit I made you feel about your hips and new grown chest. Instead of focusing on the tiny waist and flat stomach I’d inherited from my grandmother, I insulted you all day inside my head and spent every moment wishing I was as petite as every short girl in my class. You deserved better.
Picture: Lemonade Lane
To my seventeen-year-old body, I wish you’d known how beautiful your womanly curves were. I know I looked at my friends who were all thinner than me and told you I wished I was them. I’m sorry I made you throw up and underfed you because of it. It never made me feel better, it just encouraged the self-loathing. Thank you for tolerating the anger I pointed in your direction and for minimising the damage I caused to you. I wish I could give you a hug.
It’s okay to mourn your birth experience
To my 21-year-old body, I’m sorry for subjecting you to so much fake tan in every effort to cover my pale skin. The smell and stained sheets have scarred me forever. For the first time since I was a young girl, I feel outwardly confident with you, like I’ve grown into you. I love that you’re tall. I wear shorter skirts and tighter tops, which have subjected you to catcalls and wolf whistles that, for fleeting moments, made you feel sexy but mostly made you uncomfortable. Also, I’m sorry I took up smoking for that brief moment. It was definitely not cool.
Read books together every day. Get started when he's a newborn; babies love listening to the sound of their parents' voices. Cuddling up with your child and a book is a great bonding experience that will set him up for a lifetime of reading.
To my 27-year-old body, seeing you standing in the mirror in a wedding dress made me cry. You became a woman when I wasn’t looking. The laugh lines that have appeared around your eyes don’t bother me like I thought they would. The thought of sticking a needle in my face to get rid of them bothers me more. I’ve realised I need to consciously take care of you, with healthy food and exercise. My metabolism isn’t what it used to be and the leg dimples, they make me feel ugly.
To my 29-year-old body, you’ve aged but growing and birthing a human will do that to you. I stood you on those scales every single day as that baby kicked in your womb, monitoring your weight gain incessantly. Instead of marvelling at the beauty, I watched my thighs get thicker and pigmentation cover my skin. But holding that little boy, that was something else. Thank you for making me a mother, you are incredible.
To my 32-year-old self, you’re stronger and braver than I ever knew possible. You have a big heart capable of immense forgiveness and I’m so thankful for you. You’ve carried me through every yoga class, your flexibility allowing me to stretch and breathe and ground myself. I know I made you feel like there was something wrong with you when you lost that little baby, but there wasn’t. This lifetime just wasn’t ours to share.
To my 34-year-old self, I know I’ve subjected you to thousands of hours of ridicule in the mirror, wishing the cellulite wasn’t there. Glancing in every mirrored reflection to look at the dimples you’re adorned with, wondering why I have to have them. I’m sorry for making you feel like you’re not enough because you are. You grew me another baby. And birthing that baby was the most magical experience of my life. You swayed and moved through every contraction, tolerating the excruciating pain to have the birth I dreamed of.
Say "I love you" whenever you feel it, even if it's 743 times a day. You simply can not spoil a child with too many mushy words of affection and too many smooches. Not possible.
I’m now proud of my childbearing hips and indebted to my breasts that have let me feed my children for the first year of their lives. Thank you for blessing me with my pale skin and dark hair, you’ve ironically been the perfect candidate for laser treatment. For the tattoos, piercings and subsequent scars you’ve endured, I think I’m done with that now. For supporting me through my workouts to get strong again so I can run with those boys of mine for years to come, thank you. You’re doing brilliantly. Thank you for two Sunday’s ago when you played on the beach, building sandcastles in your one piece, unphased by how you looked. Thank you for the brief hours of insecurity. It felt like an eternity.
And to you, my future body, I look forward to our adventures together. The sweat-inducing menopause, skinny dipping with saggy skin in a lake off the beaten track when caravanning through retirement with my husband and most certainly for the extra fat you’ll wear around your stomach as a badge of pride for all the scones and cake you’ll get to eat sipping tea in your old age. You are beautiful and flawed and imperfect and you are mine. I know I don’t always show you love but I’m working on it. Go slow with me.
Don’t be too critical towards your child’s exploration of the Internet. Children may come across adult material by accident on the web. Also, a child may intentionally search for such websites; remember that it is natural for children to be curious about off-limits material. Try to use this as an opening to discuss the content with them, and perhaps make rules for this kind of activity. Be realistic in your assessment of how your child uses the internet.
Forever, yours x