The Fourth Letter: Big Eaters


Today for lunch, the toddler ate a bowl of vegetarian chili, 1/3 of an avocado, a scoop of cottage cheese, and two banana cookies. And that wasn’t an exceptional meal for you.

Then, after the six-month-old woke up and nursed—yes, first you nursed—you still seemed hungry so I heated up the leftover baby oatmeal in the frig and mixed it with unsweetened applesauce. I started with what I considered to be a hearty bowl for you, considering you only began solid foods a few weeks ago, but it wasn’t until after your second bowl that you even turned away from the spoon to hint you may have had enough.

You both like to eat.

When your dad and I lived in Texas, we had dinner at the apartment of some of our friends, and they mentioned in passing that since they invited us to dinner, they knew they had to make a lot extra.

Our reputation for eating had apparently preceded us.

We’re big eaters, ya’ll. Big eaters.

Now, most people wouldn’t know that from looking at us because we’re exceptionally tall and slender. But we come from eating families.

It’s no wonder that the toddler is in the nearly 100th percentile for both height and weight and already has your daddy’s strong and lean figure.

Baby girl, you will catch up soon, I’m certain, though you were two pounds smaller at birth than your big sister. You’ve already outgrown the sizes she wore last Christmas at nearly 8 months old.

I remember meeting a coworker of my mom’s when I was maybe twelve or thirteen—old enough to be a lot taller than my mom, strikingly tall for my age. The friend said—out loud—in reference to me: “Just think of all the extra weight she could carry!” Or some such ridiculous thing to say to a young woman.

But she was right, of course. My being tall has led people to exclaim that I was “all baby” both times I was pregnant, despite my having gained over fifty pounds each time. It’s an optical illusion, I’d say, because there is no polite way to continue that line of conversation.

You will probably be big girls.

I always hated the word “big.”

It’s what everyone said about me, for as long as I can remember. Big and solid. Big.

And we ate a lot.

We do eat a lot.

We’re eaters.

I love this about us.

But I wonder how to raise girls who love to eat who don’t think about food all the time, and calories, and pants sizes, and all the silly baggage of growing up as a woman in our ridiculous culture.

And there is baggage.

I have a husband who loves the extra fleshiness that carrying two babies brings, but I still drag around a couple suitcases worth of baggage when I look in the mirror these days or see pictures of myself. I hate that because I know it’s silly.

And I hate it because every time I catch myself being unhappy, I think about you and how I want you to love your bodies, your strong limbs, long torso, and broad shoulders.

I also hate it because it reminds me of those I know and love who carry heavier bags on this self-image journey.

In the last two years, I have known two beautiful and exceptionally talented women—and I mean head-and-shoulders-above-the-rest-of-their-class kind of talented—who’ve been treated for eating disorders at in-patient facilities. Two in two years.

It breaks my heart as the mother of young girls, because I know for these two who did begin treatment, these I know about, there are probably dozens of others in my community struggling, too, those I don’t know.

I look at the healthy and amazing and inspiring college students I see walking around our local college campus, and I want to ask them if they know they are beautiful.

And by beautiful, I don’t mean skinny or stylish, air-brushed or pearl-adorned.

I mean inspiring and vibrant, intelligent and passionate, articulate and fun, wearing their skinny jeans and Toms shoes and colors and cuts I never thought would come back in style.

And the young women I know who also love to eat? Those who come to our house and eat the meals we serve and ask for seconds? Those who come to our Sunday school class and eat a donut? They make me happiest.

Because here I am, raising you, my beautiful, big girls, to be eaters.

Of course, I’m also raising you to know that you are beautiful and to be confident, with your solid frames and muscular legs, your clear blue eyes, and brown curly hair, and your dimples. I hope you keep the dimples.

I so tall, Mommy,” the toddler tells me, as you make faces at yourself in the mirror. You love mirrors. Love them.

I know I can’t make you confident, but I can soak you in confidence, even now, sending those roots down deep to nourish you through the difficult years. Those difficult years will certainly come. But now, even now, I tell you how smart and gorgeous and funny and strong you are. How proud I am of you for the little things—the alphabet, the playdough, the painting, the singing for the toddler; the rolling, cooing, grabbing, observing, and jabbering for the chubbalub babe-ster.

And yes, I even tell you how amazed I am at the quantity of food you can pack away. Because it is awesome.

Stand tall, my girls.

Now let’s go eat a snack.

Your Momma