I’m having a fun event at my house tonight… I really planned it because I’ve been wanting to learn how to make homemade cheese and realized I would never do it unless I gave myself some external pressure. (Thanks grad school.)
Anyway, I am making a tomato basil salad to go with the mozzarella and thought that the variety of small tomatoes would be a good opportunity to teach my almost six year old some knife skills.
She’s doing great. I’m right beside her, giving her instruction. She’s enjoying herself, and begins talking about the different tomatoes.
“This one is long and skinny and yellow,” she says. She cuts it and puts it in the bowl.
“This one is red. And it is really round,” she says. She puts it in the bowl. “It is like you. You are round, too.”
Enter that wave of shame.
Those of you who have always struggled with your weight are familiar with this feeling. It’s a horrible companion. It was the bully that tapped on my shoulder and called me fat before my kindergarten pictures when I was barely five. The shame made me suck in my stomach.
And I haven’t stopped feeling like I have had to suck it in and be small ever since.
With my shame present, I don’t say anything, except to place another handful of tomatoes on the cutting board.
My daughter chatters on.
“Mommy, do you ever wish you were skinny?”
I’m beginning to regret this impromptu chopping class. I was thinking the produce would be cut, not me.
I understand it is an opportunity. But it is definitely one I’m not sure how to take.
I use a cross examination tactic to buy myself a few extra seconds for my brain to process.
“That’s a really good question…” I say slowly, looking down and feeling sympathy for those slashed cherry tomatoes sitting in the bowl.
And then, words. Maybe grace.
“You see how pretty that bowl of tomatoes is? All different shapes and sizes and colors?”
I pick up an uncut round red tomato and a long skinny yellow tomato and hold them in my hands.
“These tomatoes look different, and they taste different. But God made them both beautiful and good, with their unique taste. Is the round, red tomato better than the yellow, skinny tomato?”
“No mommy. They are both tasty.”
“Right. They are both good. And then, we put all the kinds of tomatoes in the same bowl and they are even prettier and better together, aren’t they?”
“That’s how God made people. All different shapes and sizes.”
“And colors!” She interrupted.
“Yes, and colors. And He put us all together in this world, just like we put all the tomatoes together in this bowl. And all together, in all our variety, we are even more beautiful. Remember when God made us… what did He call us?”
She reaches for another tomato and cuts it and begins humming.
I place a few more tomatoes in front of her, not sure if I actually believe my impromptu tomato theology.
But in the moment, I know I have stumbled on truth.
And I hope that I will gradually come to this faith… and that my daughter will always be a believer in the beauty she was created with and in.
(Originally published 11.02.18 on social media.)