As the weather finally started warming up here on Vancouver Island, I went into my dresser and reluctantly pulled out my swimsuit options: a maternity suit from when I was pregnant with my now 4-year-old daughter and two bikinis I bought 2 years ago when I was ridiculously skinny after losing my appetite for about 6 months while separating from my husband. I really don’t know why, but I (stupidly) tried them on.
The maternity suit was too big and the bikinis were too small. BOOM – shame radiated through me as I looked at the rolls hanging over the bikini bottom with disgust, furious I had put on so much weight after being so thin. Sure, I was much healthier now, but that argument doesn’t hold much value when you’re noticing that your ass is falling out of the suit so badly that your crack appears to be eating the fabric. Not exactly a time for rational arguments.
Why was I doing this to myself? Why not just stay in long shorts and a t-shirt and hide from the water all summer? It was because of my son and his sweet little face and voice asking if I would, “Please, please, please, please!” take him swimming. I had denied him all winter and spring, but as the weather warmed up my excuses were falling short. I looked at the scattered suits I had taken off and chucked across the room in disgust and knew they weren’t options. So, I took a deep breath and made my son a deal.
He sat outside the changeroom door at the swimsuit store playing Pokemon Go while I forced down my nausea and started trying on suits. As I tried one, and then another, I realized it wasn’t as bad as I’d thought. They were looking okay and were actually comfortable. The difference was I had an incredible saleswoman helping me. She understood women, and bodies, and how women can feel about their bodies. She presented me with a tankini that I didn’t even knew was an option – boy shorts and a loose fitting top that actually looked gorgeous but also camouflaged my belly. I’d found a suit I loved within 10 minutes. I hadn’t even looked at the price tags because I was so stunned, and when I got to the till I was thrilled to discover it cost a fraction of what I’d expected.
My son and I hit the pool together. As we were walking in, he looked up at me and said, “You look really pretty in that.” I squished the living daylights out of him with a hug and then we dove into the water. For three hours we splashed, flipped, rode waves, floated and laughed so so so hard. We were exhausted by the time we were done, but agreed it had been a blast.
Accepting our bodies isn’t easy. But if we put our the insecurity and shame of poor body image in front of our quality time with our kids, we’re sending several messages and none of them are good. We would never want our kids to be ashamed of their bodies, but we can’t expect them to love themselves if they see that we’re embarrassed by our own, and that we allow the embarrassment to interfere with spending quality time with them. When we lose ourselves in perceptions of how we should look, we’re prioritizing the fear of looking unattractive over the fact that our kids are getting older with a finite number of years left in their childhood. I missed months or likely even a year of fun swimming with my kids. And after seeing how happy it made my son and I, my fat won’t be allowed get in the way again.
If you don’t like your swimsuit, spend what you can on a new one that an expert in this stuff helps you choose. Find something that’s only good enough if you have to. But wear the damn suit and get making memories. And show your kids that bodies are most beautiful when you love them, regardless of how they look. – Erin Skillen, FamilySparks COO
Is you child or preteen struggling with healthy body image? Learn more about how to help them here.