Swimsuit season. Two words that definitely make me cringe when paired together. I remember as a kid and even a teenager, just throwing on a bikini and peeling tracks to the nearest pool or lake every day that I could every summer. Then, once I got a little older, something changed.
Other than my metabolism.
I didn’t want to get into a bikini one summer. I tried on my suit and my heart sank as I realized it felt a bit more snug than it did the year before. Then I noticed every lump and bump and imperfection glaring at me in the mirror. And that was the year that summer stopped being fun for me. I stopped wearing bikinis. Then I stopped wearing shorts.
For the past few years, I’ve gotten away with avoiding hitting the pool in the summer time, with a few exceptions. When I did swallow my embarrassment and go, I couldn’t get my mind off the thought that everyone was judging the way I looked. I continued to avoid bikinis and swimming and shorts and summer (so, you know, basically all things fun) for a couple of years.
Then, I got pregnant. And my body changed — rapidly. I did my best to not get out of control, but I gained a lot of weight. At least, more than I had anticipated. And after I had her, I knew it was going to take my body some time to go back to some version of the “normal” I knew before. I am similar to what I was before, but not the same. The weight is in all different places. Everything fits so differently. Most of the time, this doesn’t bother me so much. Your body forever changing is kind of part of the package when you have the privilege of growing a life and bringing it into this world.
I think a big part of what helped me to accept that was the fact that my husband accepted, loved, and wanted me and my body in all its many forms it has taken throughout the years. I may get the motivation one day to lose this weight, I may not. At the moment, I have enough stress and anxiety to go around, and thinking about weight loss only adds to that for me. So no, weight loss is not exactly a priority for me. I am not thin, but otherwise I am healthy. That is all that matters to me.
But this summer, the swim suit and I met again. My daughter, who was too tiny and I was too terrified to take her swimming but maybe once last year, is now blossoming into toddlerhood, and I am eager to show her the world. One thing I knew she would love this summer would be swimming. She is a water baby through and through. So a girlfriend and I planned to take her kids and mine to the pool one afternoon. My daughter’s first time at a big pool, and I was beyond excited to take her. To experience this again for the first time through my child’s eyes.
But in order to do that, I had to confront that swimsuit shoved in the back of my closet. I squeezed myself into my least despised tankini. I didn’t peek in the mirror right away. I didn’t want to look. I could already tell by the amount of trouble I had in putting on my suit that I was going to look like a busted can of biscuits. Finally though, I worked up the courage and caught a glimpse.
Busted can of biscuits was a pretty accurate description. The lumps and bumps were on full display. Oh well, I thought to myself. I don’t have time to find a new suit. It’s time to get out the door. And off we went.
We got to the pool, and my daughter was a level of excited I had not yet seen from her. She tore across the concrete, eager to get in the pool. I chased after her quickly, just a few steps behind. My fearless little muffin charged into the shallow end of the pool, and I had no choice but to go with her as I struggled to at least keep hold of a few fingers on one hand.
She splashed into the pool, grinning from ear to ear, arms tense with excitement. She let out a squeal of delight at the sprinklers and sprayers surrounding her, and charged forward to deeper water. I quickly tightened my grip on her as she almost went face first into the water. In what I am sure was one of the least graceful movements of my life, I scooped her up from the water, pivoted and then landed butt first in the pool, holding my daughter high enough that her head stayed above water.
It was then I realized I still had my shorts and tank top on that I had worn over my suit.
It was also then that I realized I had not looked up at a single person at that pool since I walked through the entrance gate. My focus had solely been on my daughter. Focused on her safety. Focused on her excitement. Her joy. Her complete lack of fear.
I hadn’t looked up at anyone, and I was guessing none of them were too worried about me in my busted-can-of-biscuits-suit either. And just like that, my worries about being out in public in a swim suit vanished. Or maybe it was more like I was now able to realize how little I cared in comparison to how much I cared about sharing this experience with my daughter.
I remembered back to when I was a kid, and my mom would take us swimming, but would rarely, if ever, join us. I remember being as young as 6 or 7 and realizing that my mom didn’t feel good about herself in a swimsuit and that’s why she didn’t swim with us. I thought about how I didn’t want to pass on that memory to my daughter. I want to spare her from as much body negativity and insecurity as I possible can. To do that, the example starts with me. I don’t want to be the mom who is so ashamed about her appearance that it got in the way of having fun and making memories. The hell with that! I thought to myself. I’m going to go have fun with my daughter.
And we had the best time. I can’t wait to take her again.