This past weekend, my 1.5-year-old nephew came to visit. Hayden is such a joy to be around! He is funny and smart and tender hearted! He has a contagious laugh, a smile that melts your heart and big ocean blue eyes. He loves to play with his John Deere dump truck, blow bubbles, throw the ball for his dog Clover and press any and every button or light he can get his hands on!
Because he is the first grandchild of the family, my parents have gone all out since the day he was born! My mom has multiple new toys and clothes waiting for him every time he comes to town to visit and my dad is already planning for Hayden’s future with larger John Deere supplies and camping gear for our family land in Longview. My parents flood Hayden with new forms of entertainment every time he is in town and this past weekend was no different.
Their backyard posed as a theme park complete with a blow-up elephant pool that included a slide and inflatable palm tree, a new sand box with big buckets and colorful shovels, a plastic blue rocking horse and a sno cone maker with assorted colors and flavors to choose from.
When I arrived to my parents’ house after work one evening, I found Hayden running around the backyard with his turquoise swim trunks on, a big bright smile on his face and cherry red sno cone juice running down his chin and across his belly. As a 1.5- year- old, Hayden loves to feed himself. This means that sometimes food actually makes it into his mouth and other times, like this particular occasion, it runs down his face and tummy! But Hayden didn’t mind. He just dipped his little spoon into his icy cold sno cone and pulled out a heaping mound of red cherry flavored ice popping it into his mouth and laughing as most of it dribbled down his face. Then, cherry stained from the tip of his nose to the bottom of his belly button, Hayden proceeded to splash around in his pool, build sand castles in his fluffy tan sand and enjoy the summer day!
There is something about the way a toddler freely plays and enjoys their body. The curiosity that starts as an infant about their pointy toes, soft bulging belly and wiggly fingers is comparable to none. The excitement a baby experiences when they learn of a new body part and what it can do, how it works. The joy of learning that clapping both hands together makes a happy noise and patting your belly sounds like drums. Untainted by a diet culture, a cruel world that makes money by brainwashing people to hate their bodies and distrust their hunger signals. A world where we hide shame behind a swimsuit cover-up and use hash tags to discuss beach bodies and “summer ready” diets.
As adults, we dread shopping for a bathing suit, worry about how we are going to burn off the calories that we ate at a summer cook-out and most of us wouldn’t be caught dead running around in swim trunks with cherry red sno cone running down our bellies!
I think children have a lot to teach us when it comes to the pleasures of eating and nourishing ourselves, body trust and size acceptance. They teach us that each day you can learn something new about yourself and be thankful for a healthy and able body. They also teach us that the foundational component to proper nutrition and a healthy relationship with food is learning how to accept and embrace our current bodies versus striving for the thin ideal. Children model the importance of not letting guilt or shame around your body keep you from living an abundant life and enjoying time with loved ones this summer.
When Hayden took a bath that night, he patted his belly like a drum with his two little hands and laughed as it made a funny noise. He kicked his feet around and tried to snap his fingers like he had seen his Paw Paw doing earlier in the evening. Hayden may not always love every little detail about his body. He may grow up and notice flaws or imperfections, challenges that he’ll have to face. But for this past weekend, Hayden accepted his body and enjoyed his summer to the fullest. Sand box, swimming pool, cherry red stained belly and all!
Summertime, Sno Cones and Size Acceptance