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You find that there’s nothing more observant than a child in his/her first few years of life.  You’re encouraged to read to them, talk to them, and watch your behavior with other people, because the child is watching you and learning how to live life from the example that you’re setting.

As a mother, I try extremely hard to make sure that I set a good example for her.  Even when I think my daughter isn’t looking, and even if she isn’t around.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never had bad manners when interacting with people, but I just want to really make sure that my daughter doesn’t add to the jerk quotient when she gets older.  I thought I was doing fine until she did something that first puzzled me, and then broke my heart.

While typing one day and keeping an eye on my daughter, she walked over to a mirror and lifted her shirt up to expose her stomach.  She looked at it for a minute, and then, with her little three year old hands, started poking at it and then shaking it.  By the time she started jiggling her little toddler abs, I finally stopped typing to pay full attention to her.

What is she doing?

She then noticed me looking at her and gave me the biggest smile, like she was expecting a congratulations.  I realized that this is the same smile she gives me when she does something good;  something that she’s watched me do and wanted to surprise me by proving how much she watches me.  Like when she picks up my watch, drapes it on her wrist and yells:  “Watch!”  Or picking up my purse and cradling it in the nook of her arm while she’s struggling to sashay to the door like she’s actually going somewhere.  Or when she correctly identifies an object.  In this moment she wanted me to see that she had picked up on another habit and she wanted her kudos.

I realized that she picked up on my unconscious habit of walking up to a mirror, and harshly, but silently, critiquing my frame.  I’ve been working on getting rid of the rest of the baby weight that I gained when I held her in my uterus, and even though there is progress, I still find myself very anxious to get back to my pre-baby size.  Carrying the extra weight makes me extremely uncomfortable, and I didn’t realize how much of a habit I’d created of walking up to different mirrors in the house, lifting up my shirt to expose my stomach and wish my abs were back.  I didn’t realize how normal it was for her to see me sigh, poke at the jiggly parts of my stomach, and critique myself while she’s just a few feet away, soaking it all in, and thinking that this is the way that she should see herself.

I’m not a big fan of people who are happy in their self-delusions, and thinking that they’re perfect, but at the same time I’m not a big fan of people being overly negative in the way they see themselves.  Seeing and attempting to fix a flaw is good, but berating yourself over said flaw usually doesn’t help the progress.  A lot of times it hinders it.  With all of the things that I’ve been hoping and praying that my daughter gains from me, I was slowly giving her a complex, the horrible feeling of tearing herself down, and that’s the last thing that I want to do.

As hard as it is to not want to stop in front of a mirror and do the profile pose, and poke at any problem areas, I stop myself because I know that she is watching me.  With that knowledge it keeps me motivated on my weight loss goal, but also encourages me to be more kind to myself while I’m on my pursuit.  I decided to stop punishing myself, not because I was too hard on me, but because I don’t want my daughter to be too hard on herself when she gets older.

Now if only she’ll pick up my awesome abilities of doing the robot, then I’ll be good…

Kendra Koger is known for her pop-lockin’ abilities, and her occasional tweet @kkoger.

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