I wrenched my back last week, and nine-year old Etta has been very concerned, seeing me wince in pain as I hobble around the house. Last night as I was stiffly and carefully tucking her into bed, she said, “Your spine is being bad! It’s hurting you!”
“No,” I told her, “my spine is a good spine! It’s just injured. It’s doing the best it can to heal.”
“Bad spine!” she insisted.
“No, it’s not bad, it’s hurting. When something is hurting, it gets better faster if you’re kind to it and take good care of it. When you broke your finger, we took good care of it, right? We didn’t yell at it and tell it that it was bad.”
She thought for a moment. Then she remembered a previous conversation we’d had about our bodies, when I had confessed that I sometimes talked to my body, to encourage it, and check in to see what it needed. In fact, I’ve even given my body a nickname. She remembered that now.
“Poor sweetpea!” she said softly, reaching over to pat me on the head.
“Yes, poor little sweetpea is hurting,” I agreed. “But she’s doing the best she can. I’m doing the best I can to take good care of her so she can heal.”
“Little sweetpea,” she murmured, settling back into her pillow and hugging her bear close.
Etta is nine. By that age I had already learned to hate my body. I was only slightly older when I developed an eating disorder. It’s been a long journey back to acceptance, kindness, and love towards myself. I’m still working on it. Some days are easier than others.
I hope Etta can circumvent that whole process. I hope she always loves her strong, sturdy body, and delights in all the things it can do.
I hope that when she’s hurting, she remembers to be kind to herself. To rest when she needs to. To take good care of her own beautiful, sacred little sweetpea.