Editor's note: This post originally appeared on Kiyah Duffey's blog, Our Regularly Scheduled Program. It has been shared here with the author's permission. Find Duffey on Facebook or on Twitter via the handle @KiyahDuffey.
Eleanor's bedtime routine looks a little something like this: I take her upstairs for her bath (or a simple hand and face washing if that's all that's necessary or we are running late, which is most evenings (the running late, I mean). This hand-and-face washing usually turns into some feet washing too, which usually results in a few minutes of us hiding her feet under the washcloth and her squealing in delight every time I say, "Uh oh, Eleanor! Where did your foot go?" to which she replies, "Right here!" and pulls the rag away with vigor as she laughs at seeing her feet emerge. (Can you imagine having this much fun washing your feet?!) Anyway, next we brush her teeth (she chews on the toothbrush for a minute or so, and then I brush actually brush them) and head into her room where her dad takes over — changing into PJs, selecting and reading books (usually three unless we are, as usual, running late), turning out the light, a quick back rub, and then one last kiss before he leaves her to fall asleep.
(Lately some portion of the transfer from mom to dad has also involved a great deal of crying ("I want my mommy") and some frustration on Tim's part that she's not adjusted to this, a routine we've maintained for at least nine months now. He's not taking it personally, which is good, but it's still hard to know that he's dealing with it on more nights than either of us would like. But I digress ... )
Last night, after my portion of the bedtime routine, I was puttering around in the bathroom cleaning out the extra stuff under the sink when I heard Tim say something to Eleanor that gave me pause. "Eleanor," he said. "You have a beautiful body."
A few months ago I wrote about the degree to which girls are praised for their looks, and how infrequently we ask them questions that relate to their interests or hobbies (or directly engage their intellectual curiosity), so when I heard Tim (who is the kind of father that would rather encourage Eleanor's love of books or bugs, than eye shadow or handbags) tell Eleanor that she had a beautiful body I wondered where he was going with it.4 comments on this story
He continued. "Look at these two legs of yours. They are so strong. They help you run and jump and balance. And look at this belly. It helps you turn all the good food you eat into energy that helps you play and grow." He continued from one body part to another, describing how many she had of each (two eyes and one brain) and detailing all the wonderful things those body parts allowed her two do (a nose for smelling flowers, and two strong arms for hugging and holding your animals, and two ears that let you hear the birds singing and music playing ... ). The room was silent but for his voice, which was soft; soft enough to suggest that he was close to her, fully engaged in their time together. There was not a sound coming from Eleanor either, no stirring, kicking against the wall or rustling of the sheets — sounds that usually suggest her typical toddler fidgeting. I stood motionless in the doorway, listening.
When he finished there was a moment of silence. I imagined Eleanor internalizing, at such a young age, this deeply important lesson about all that she, in her body (the very body that she has and not one that she thinks she should have), is capable of, and at that moment I couldn't remember the last time I was so moved.
And I wasn't the only one.
After several seconds of silence I heard Eleanor's response: "More daddy."