Riley and I. Fun in the sun. (some of you have asked...my suit is from lime ricki!)
I am always working to help my daughters have a better body image than my own.
For me, that means responding enthusiastically when they point out my stretch marks. (Those are scars left over from when I was pregnant! Aren’t they amazing? They are proof that my body could grow big enough to hold you! I am so proud of all the work my body did and those marks always remind me of that good work.) Never talking out loud about my body in any terms but grateful ones...even when I just really, really hate that I can’t fit into last year’s jeans. (Sometimes, I have to admit, this just means I don’t talk about it at all. Because mama don’t always have the right perspective.) And finally, it means wearing a swimsuit even when I really, really don’t feel up to it.
Like last year’s jeans, last summer’’s swimsuit is a little….ummmmm...snug. I am eating healthier and drinking enough water to fill one of the great lakes so, hopefully, this is a temporary situation. But it might not be. And that’s okay. I’ve got enough to reach for without also worrying about size 4 jeans. I get that this is all relative. That my ten pounds too heavy is someone else’s ten pounds too light. Because of that, is hard for me to get too upset about something that is so subjective and ultimately fleeting. Also, it’s summer. And the swimming is now. And I want my daughters to understand that our sometimes misguided perception of our form should not influence it’s function.
So we went bathing suit shopping.
Swimsuit shopping for women is NOT like suit shopping for men. Guys basically get to wear water proof pajamas. Us? No. We must be hooked, strapped and squeezed. I know very few women who love the process of suit selection. Even those of us with relatively healthy body images can get a little blue when squeezed into lycra in fluorescent lighting. And I mean, can you blame us? Most of our choices assume our post baby breasts don’t need the support of an industrial crane to stay in place. Also, wide leg, high cut, low cut? Who cares? As far as I am concerned all swimsuit bottoms are terrifyingly close to revealing the motherland. This isn’t a modesty thing. It is simply a matter of practicality. I would prefer to keep my, ahem, special parts free from prying eyes and invasive sand crabs.
But what is our other option? I saw a cute woman at the pool the other day in an adorable bathing suit and big, baggy basketball shorts. The damn things kept falling off when she’d hop out of the pool to chase her kids. When she was in the pool they’d fill the water around her like a life saving flotation device. They didn’t look comfortable or effective but I get where she was coming from. Being a swimming mom is a full contact sport. I literally had to dive across the deck the other day to keep Vi from throwing herself in the deep end. Forget the basketball shorts, I need a cup and face guard. (Hmmmm. What would the female equivalent of a cup be? Breast guard? Yeah, sure. I’ll take one. Maybe it will help my chest fill out the expectations of my suit.)
The girls were pretty excited that they got to help me pick out a bathing suit, although I have to admit, the running commentary that rang out from their dear little mouths made me somewhat less enthusiastic about their presence.
The time the suit was too small and I could barely get it on: Mom! Hey Mom! Look! One of your boobs is sticking out! Get it in! Get it in!!
The time the suit was too small and I could barely get it off: Your bum jiggles when you shake like that! Look Vi! Jiggle jiggle.
The time I couldn’t figure out how to get the suit on: Mom, do you need help? Hey! My mom needs help! Can someone come help her???
The time I had tried on 20 suits and still hadn’t chosen one: Are we done yet? I hate being here.
The time I finally picked a suit: You’re getting that one? I liked the one with ribbons and butterflies. But that one is fine. It just isn’t pretty. Can we go get chicken and fries?
All of this interspersed with Vi’s most passionate opera singing (her new 2 year old love) and yelling and running in circles in the dressing room.
Holy hell. Want to feel like your body image is group effort rather than a personal opinion? Have your five year old try to tuck your stray breast into your suit top while you are trying to keep your two year old from climbing out under the dressing room door. For the millionth time since I became a mom I realized, this ain’t about me anymore.
So I bought the suit and the kids got nuggets. We’ve gone swimming several times a week since. And I know this might not make sense to more well adjusted individuals, but for me, that is a triumph of epic proportions. I think I just might leave the basketball shorts off and run with it.