In that instant, I had the choice about how I would react to this sweet and curious boy-child: I could choose to feel offended and insulted, and shame him for asking me, OR, I could just own the truth, which is that I am a 41-year old mother of two, and my belly isn't flat!
Feeling solidarity with the imminently lovable Jennifer Garner, I decided to reciprocate the REALNESS modeled by my young friend, and take advantage of this teachable moment; so I said with ease, "No, I'm not pregnant, but I do have kind of a squishy tummy, don't I? I have two kids, so I guess I'll always have a little bit of baby belly. That's just how mamas' bodies work: we have babies, and then we have some of that bump left over!" (And, sidenote: My kids both *love* my snuggly mama belly. As a toddler, my daughter began calling it my pelly-belly, and both kids still use that term to this day.)
He immediately made the connection, and said, "Yeah! My mom has a squishy belly too, and she had THREE kids! I guess she has a lot left over." And then he went off, back to work. No judgement; just understanding.
Rather than feeling self-conscious about my body, I left feeling thankful for that opportunity to model to a boy - and the male teacher who was standing next to me, listening to the interaction - that YES, I have a squishy belly, and YES, THAT IS NORMAL FOR A GROWN WOMAN.
A tiny seed, I know, but maybe that seed will grow into an awareness that will help this child combat the *constant* onslaught of completely unrealistic depictions of women in our media. (And yes, I want to say that *of course* there are some grown women, including mamas, who do have flat tummies, and to them I say, rock your six-pack, Sister! I just have to stand up and claim a little piece of the world for those of us who don't!)
This issue just goes so deep for us women -- it is such a trigger -- and I want to tell you, it's not really this boy's fault at all that he has no idea how much amazing variety there is in women's bodies. Our culture is scrubbed clean of ANY images of women that don't conform to the current cultural standard of female beauty (click here to see more on that), that other than their own mothers, when do any children have the opportunity to really SEE grown women's bodies? The sad answer is: porn, and the completely unrealistic products advertising industry. And that's about it.
So rather than getting offended, or continue to be slaves to the brainwashing that robs us of our female power, maybe we can each make a little space to just own our belly, even our leftover baby bump. As Jennifer says, "Let's just all settle in and get used to it. It's not going anywhere."