Perfect 10

My daughter loves her swimsuit. The electric blue fabric is decorated with a giant green palm tree and bright red and yellow flowers that scream “look at me!” Putting her swimsuit on is a weekly ritual regardless if swimming is on the agenda or not. Why wait for water? In her mind, something that great needs to be worn as often as possible. I’m more than happy to put it on her. Seeing her lily white arms and legs in all of their pudgy toddler glory stops my heart. Even with a fanny swollen from a bulky swimmie diaper, she is a ‘Bo Derek move over’ perfect 10 to my eyes. As she prances around, her face reveals the uninhibited delight of a girl enjoying a moment without the baggage of insecurities. There’s no question in her mind she is anything less than fabulous. How I wish I could keep it that way.

My daughter’s love of swimwear does not come from me. Even touching my suit stirs feelings of distress and inadequacy. The times I have mine on in front of others my mind is unable to focus on the joy of the water and time with family and friends. It is lost in a sea of self-loathing. Avoiding occasions to wear my suit altogether worked for me in the past. Now that I have kids it is impossible to do that without robbing them of experiences all kids should have.

I’m not the only woman in my family who hates swimsuits. My twin sister feels the same way. This common thread has less to do with us being twins and more to do with the environment we grew up in. It’s not that anyone said anything damaging to our self-esteem. More so, it was our observing the constant rituals the women in our lives went through to transform them from their God given self to something worthy of public display. I have clear memories of my mother and grandmothers ducking from a camera because they were “hideous” at that moment or didn’t “have their face on.” It sent a message more powerful than any words. A woman without cover or accessories is not attractive. The real human body, without decoration, is ugly. Considering there is no way to hide your physical reality in a swimsuit, it is a logical enemy to anyone struggling with maintaining a positive self-image. There is only so much draping possible. The suit itself is damning enough. Never mind actually getting wet in the bloody thing and no longer being able to hide behind makeup and perfectly quaffed hair as the unmerciful, drenched fabric clings to every bump and ripple in the most unappealing way possible. As far as unfortunate situations go, that is pretty high on the list for me.

When I’m being logical, I know I wasn’t born hating myself in swimsuits. There had to of been a time when I didn’t give my body and how others might view it any concern. Messages around me and in my life likely changed that. My daughter’s nearly 3 year old self isn’t registering my need to cover. She’s not hearing my groans over her squeals of delight. That won’t be true forever. It is likely she has already subconsciously stored images and words that, though they mean nothing to her now, will make sense down the road and affect her own view of her body. If my lily white legs are an embarrassment, if my jiggles, curves and bumps are best kept under a towel or over-sized shirt, shouldn’t the same be true for her? She is my daughter. She will inevitably see some of me in her. By allowing her to see I don’t like me, I am giving her reason to eventually not like her. It crushes me to imagine her ever doubting her beauty or considering hiding the light that is her from the rest of the world in shame or embarrassment. It just can’t be. Period.

Knowingly contributing to my daughter’s future feelings of inadequacy is not an option. As uncomfortable as I am at times in my own skin, it is essential to set that aside and make some positive changes in my life. What better motivator than preserving my daughter’s “I am fabulous as I am” smile? The next time my daughter asks to play in her swimsuit, I’m going to put mine on too. We’ll dance hula together in front of the mirrors in her playroom. I’ve had the same “don’t look at me” black swimsuit for nearly a decade. Perhaps it is time for my own electric blue eye catcher? When we go to the pool, I’m going to force myself to rip the t-shirt and shorts that cover my suit off with the same enthusiasm she possesses. I’m going to make a genuine effort not to care what might be too white or purple. If all four of my buns are hanging out, so be it. My body is my body. When my rational mind takes a look around, I know I’m no mutant. I’m just a woman. My body may not sell magazines, but my goal has never involved being a cover girl. My ultimate goal is to be a good mom and give my daughter all the tools in life that will help her grow into a confident woman who is happy with all of the amazing things that make her, HER. If she misses out on one experience that could have brought her joy as a result of a poor self-image it will have been one too many.

Who knows. Maybe after a time of demonstrating a positive self-image for her, I’ll actually learn how to have one for real versus faking it for her good. My brain is capable of reprogramming, right? Kind of makes me wonder who the teacher really is here, her or me?

6 Responses to “Perfect 10”

  1. Tricia says:

    Lisa, I LOVE this post. I have that same black swimsuit and have had to done it more times than I’d like in order to help my little guy experience things. Standing with my neighbors at the pool leaves me feeling so vulnerable, and judged, but most likely its me doing all that negative judging. I’ve been dreading the upcoming swim suit season, but maybe I need to join you in a shopping spree for a turquoise number and remember to dance like your daughter. Your post and your thoughts, and life from a 3-year-old’s perspective is inspiring!

  2. Amy says:

    I really was moved by your post! I may have to join you and Tricia … I have been wearing the same maternity swim suit I bought during my first pregnancy (my oldest is 14 now)!!!

  3. RockstarMama says:

    SUCH a good post. OH to be a 3-year old. Stupid adult brain. Very thought-provoking; love it.

  4. Lori says:

    Lisa – this is probably one of the best things I’ve ever read!!! Thank you thank you thank you for the inspiration this summer. Perhaps I’ll be able to change my body image too and won’t affect my kids like my parents did.

  5. Emily (esuzanne) says:

    Love this Lisa!!! Thanks!

  6. Lauren says:

    This is so great- I completely agree, and good for you to be so self-aware now when your daughter is 3—she will be better for it!