Mom’s actions impart subtle messageWritten by Shannon Szyperski | | firstname.lastname@example.org
My mom has been a fantastic role model in so many ways, but she is likely unaware of one of her most important influences on me. In one way it was a subtle lesson, not so much of the sit-down-and-have-a-heart-to-heart variety. In another way, however, it could be considered quite blatant and even more in-your-face than some might consider appropriate. To end the suspense, one of my mom’s greatest gifts to me was the fact that she used to walk around the house … in her underwear.
It wasn’t an all-day thing, but it was a daily thing. I might be fixing my breakfast in the morning or walking in the house from school in the afternoon (sometimes with an unannounced friend or two) and my mother would appear scurrying about in her bra, panties and nothing else. The scurrying indicated that we weren’t exactly living in a nudist colony, but the half-nakedness indicated that a human body isn’t something to be embarrassed about either. I subconsciously learned to figure that if my mom was fine with displaying her four-kids-popped-out-and-have-clung-to-me-ever-since physique, then a body in general must be an acceptable thing.
Of course, my mom’s tutorial on body image went far beyond just being comfortable in your skivvies. Although she would slap on some obligatory red lipstick before a night out on the town, things like makeup, clothing, jewelry and hair were not exactly points of significance in our house. She had a way of exemplifying the importance of a kempt appearance while simultaneously downplaying the gravity of appearance within the grand scheme of things.
Still, my childhood home was not without discussion about superficialities. My mom’s curlers and the perpetual piece of cowlick-reducing Scotch tape that took up residence across her forehead (sometimes even during trips to the store when she forgot it was there) were the talk of the family on occasion. My siblings and I also enjoyed debating my mom’s confounding dinosaur-of-an-appliance overhead blow dryer, which stayed in commission long after such a thing was en vogue. It was years before I realized that sticking your head in a soundproof bowl and reading a book for 30 minutes every day under the guise of drying your hair is a mom maneuver of unparalleled brilliance.
Although I did experience fairly common body culture at home, I had a childhood based much more so on ideas and interpersonal relationships than on appearances. We didn’t have Cosmo or Glamour lying around the house; we had newspapers and encyclopedias. There may have been a Barbie doll here and there, but her plasticity certainly couldn’t come close to ever competing with the genuine, flesh-and-blood beauty of the woman who gave birth to me. In fact, the confidence my mom exuded in her natural assets, both inside and out, easily transcended the perpetual parade of frivolousness put on by American culture. In short, the shallow end of the outside world didn’t stand much of a chance against the understated teachings of my self-assured mom.
However, I have actually learned to snag some newfound respect for fashion, makeup and other such things as my own daughters have expressed a natural inclination toward them. I am learning through my girls that there is room in this world for exploring skin-deep beauty as it relates to accepting what you are given and making the best of it. Worldly items like clothing, makeup, nail polish, jewelry, piercings, tattoos and other bodily adornments are welcome when they come as expressions of our own likes and not as reflections of someone else’s.
I fully realize that there are no guarantees when it comes to any one aspect of raising children, but I hope to at least create the best odds by setting decent examples. Knowing now how my own mom’s example helped to lead me into an adulthood free of many superficial encumbrances is motivation to do the same for my children. As I age and continue to grow into my elder self, I see not loss but rather opportunity, opportunity to lead by my own example and to pass along my mother’s lessons to me, of self-acceptance and of self-confidence, to the next generation.
Interested in modeling a healthy body image for your own child but not sure how? Interested in giving your child the skills to avoid pitfalls and maintain self-acceptance? A pair of free seminars, one geared toward parents and one geared toward students in grades three-five, are being presented by Inspire Dance Company in honor of National Eating Disorders Week. The parent seminar will be held 7:30-8:15 p.m. March 8 and the student workshop will be held 10-11:30 a.m. March 10. Both seminars are being held at McCord Road Christian Church, 4765 N. McCord Road in Sylvania. Contact Julie Knapp at email@example.com or (419) 885-3041 for more information.