Qi-stealing and body talk

September 13th, 2022

I overheard my daughter tell her friend, who has long, curly hair, that her hair looked “naughty,” and I caught my breath.

“That’s not very nice!” I chided her. She looked confused. “But it has knots in the back!” 

Oh. Knotty. Right.

Is second grade the time when girls start talking about their looks? Because I’ve noticed an uptick in the casual mentions of “so-and-so’s big belly — almost as big as yours, mama!” followed by sucking in her belly button and asking, “Would you like me better if my tummy were this big?”

Hard no on that kind of talk, but I guess I can’t just shut it down and hope for the best, can I? Still, I fret. As my friend L.astutely said, “I don’t want our daughters growing up hating their bodies like we did.”

(Worth mentioning, of course, that this is not just a girl thing. A friend of mine with a boy told me when he went through this phase as well: “Shorts make me look fat!” This broke my heart.)

My daughters now make casual mentions of the size of body parts and the behavior of hair, but they continue to have zero awareness of breakfast smeared across their face as they step onto the bus. Cut to me chasing them around at the bus stop with a napkin every morning — and them pushing me away and using their sleeves or bare arms instead.

On Saturday, we head to the farmer’s market as usual. Lately I’ve been experimenting with handing the girls money and letting them run off to get their own lemonade or ice cream or whatever treat they are in the mood for. This morning, Eliza trots back with a mashed-looking cone of chocolate gelato with gravel sprinkles. “I tripped,” she says. 

“Ah well, wipe it off and eat it,” I respond.

Not a minute later, I watch her trip again and sprawl across the sandbox, her ice cream flying off the cone. She picks it up and, dismayed, carries the cold blob back to me in one hand, the crushed cone in the other. I shrug, but agree to go get her a cup to stick the yummy sandy gravelly ice cream blob in. Bon appetit!

Wild and free, they nearly mow down an elderly woman walking with a cane. They rush between stalls, ignoring my pleas to take the sanctioned paths. With their friends, they discover a tiny baby puppy in a crate behind a vendor’s booth and can’t help themselves from running their chocolate-and-gravel-smeared paws all over its smooth, glossy fur. 

They wait patiently in line for tomatoes, sort of. They eat tomatoes with their dirty hands, like apples, and toss the stems on the ground. They run into the paths of oncoming cars in the parking lot and give me heart attack after heart attack. They ignore my yells of their names. Sometimes I regret giving them such non-threatening sounding middle names, because yelling their full name when I’m mad doesn’t really pack a punch:

Phoebe STAR McIntyre!


One of my daughters has a deadly yellow jacket allergy, and there are yellow jackets swarming the farmers market today, but they can’t seem to catch up with my daughter, instead flocking to the remnants of ice cream cone she leaves scattered in her wake.

They are driving me crazy, running me ragged, stealing my qi. But I prefer it to the body talk, frankly, and hope it lasts a little longer.


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