It’s hard to believe it, but our daughter, Lorelai, turned four this month. They weren’t kidding when someone said, “The days are long, but the years go by fast!” Watching this little person grow and learn has been amazing, and I am constantly finding myself looking at her with a mixture of awe and adoration. It is the coolest thing to see how her brain starts to put things together, how she reacts to certain situations, and how she approaches pretty much every experience from a place of innocence and openness.
I was a fan of the author Sandra Boynton growing up, and I knew that I wanted to introduce Lorelai to her work early on. Luckily, I was able to find numerous board books that Boynton has created which have delightful pictures and silly and sweet words to go with them. One of our favorite books is called Belly Button Book! This delightfully colorful book follows a group of hippos that love their belly buttons and are happy to display them in any which way they can. The hippos make sure their belly buttons are front and center during the summer, showing them off at Belly Button Beach and singing the belly button song on warm summer nights. The youngest of the hippos calls the belly button a “Bee Bo!” and repeats this word throughout the book. Obviously, this book has become such a favorite in our house, and we have read it hundreds of times over the past four years.
As a result of reading this book over and over, Jonah and I started referring to our own belly buttons as “bee bos,” and Lorelai picked this up as well. Aside from the obvious adorableness factor, it’s been interesting to see how lovingly Lorelai looks at her own belly button and ours as well. Prior to having a child, I was reluctant to show my belly to others. I don’t remember ever owning a two-piece bathing suit, but I do remember being taught that having a round tummy was not okay. From a very early age, I figured out that flat bellies are better than round bellies, and if you don’t have a flat belly, you better keep it covered. Through my adolescence and much of my early adulthood, I was very self-conscious of my belly and would wear clothes that didn’t accentuate it in any way. To this day, my knee-jerk reaction to someone touching my belly is to flinch initially. But I’ve noticed a shift in my belly thoughts since having Lorelai.
One of Lorelai’s favorite things to do is stick out her stomach as far as she can as she admires her belly. She lovingly strokes it and tells me and/or Jonah to look at it. Of course, we “ooh” and “aah” and tell her how adorable her bee bo is. At some point, she wanted to see what our bee bos looked like as well, so we started showing them to her. At first, I felt some hesitation with doing this as it went against my “no bellies see daylight” mantra, but eventually, I was able to display my belly to her without issue. Lorelai loves touching her belly to our bellies and giving us “bee bo bumps,” and it always makes her giggle with glee.
Just watching her face light up and her absolute delight in her belly has been really eye-opening for me. I don’t ever want her to feel ashamed of her body. I want her to see her body as an amazing part of her. I want her to be able to appreciate the body she has and all that it can do. I also want her to be able to recognize that she is not her body, and that there is so much more to her than just her physical body. I am continuing to work on healing my own relationship with my body, and I really strive to show Lorelai that all bodies are good bodies; ergo, all bee bos are good bee bos. I aim to never speak ill of my body in her presence and to be kinder to myself, especially when I am having a bad body image day. I know that kids learn how to hate their bodies by watching their parents hate their own bodies, and I don’t want that to happen in our house. I just hope she can continue to find the wonder and beauty in her body and that it won’t be taken away from her as she gets older. So to that end I will continue to show my belly when Lorelai asks and to give her as many bee bo bumps as she desires.