28 June 2014

Swimsuit Mama

This post encouraging mamas to put on their swimsuits and play with their kids has received a lot of attention. I think it's a great message, and I tweeted it too. But I kind of hate that it's even necessary. Of course we should swim with our kids, and I don't think I've ever hesitated.

I am all for moms (and grandmas and dads and grandpas, etc.) having fun with the kids and especially eschewing any negative body image feelings during play time.

But I also have never been thin, so I think putting on a swimsuit isn't some huge effort for me -- no more so than putting on a swimsuit before having Jane might have been. I can't relate to the moms who have memories of strutting their stuff in tiny bikinis. That's just never been me.

I've never been thin, although I was probably a regular sized kid. Compared to my very skinny boy cousins (who are 2 and 4 years younger also) I was gargantuan ... at least until they grew well over six feet (and I probably still weigh more than them). I've also always been bigger than my sister. Anyway, I have a distinct memory of watching myself in a bathing suit as a ~10 year old -- a video my uncle had shot during one of my sister's swim party birthdays. We were watching it together, and I remember cringing ... and feeling that my body was gross or not as cute as the other, littler children. I don't know if anything was actually said when I was onscreen, so this could have been all in my mind and something that I figured out by the media images of "good" bodies, but UGH.

I don't want Jane to feel that way, no matter what her body looks like. I want her to recognize her body as something good and strong. And I want to feel that way about my body too. My body is pretty healthy and is definitely strong. It made a baby who has turned into my favorite girl ever! I have work I can do to strengthen my body and prolong its usefulness. I do that with varying success. And because I can wear a bathing suit without too much effort doesn't mean I don't have body hangups or care deeply about what other people think of me and how I look. But I want to love my body in a way that shows Jane she can love her body too.

And that includes putting on a swimsuit (and sports bra!) without making it into a big thing.

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