Confession: I don’t like to get my face wet.
Not in pools. Not in the shower. Not even when washing my face at the end of the day.
Combine this weird fear with the fact that the sun is my #1 enemy and, well, one can come to the conclusion that swimming has never been my sport. Not that I have a sport, per se, unless you count the repetitions of my biceps curling as I lift my coffee cup to my lips each morning.
So, as any good parent would, I signed myself and my daughter up for newborn swim classes. Because, by golly, I am going to enjoy things vicariously through her.
One of the most wonderful things about carrying a giggling, smiley newborn: you are instantly hidden under an invisibility cloak. You are simply the holder of the previously mentioned cuteness.
This led me to believe that it was okay to squeeze my postpartum self into a modest one piece and try to forget about my stretch mark stained thighs, my not-so-firm stomach, the varicose veins resembling a map of Amazonian rivers, and my translucent skin (this one has nothing to do with pregnancy). Nevertheless, I shoved all my insecurities aside, wiggled into my suit and went to our local pool.
I stood there, waiting for class to begin, saying hello to the other parents, meeting the kids, wondering how my little one would do in the water and trying to ignore my pulsing blue veins that could act as a living demonstration of the human body’s circulatory system.
This is when Malibu Barbie walked out of the changing room. Holding her daughter on her sculpted hip, she sauntered her tan skinny self towards the group, chatting with her mother.
“Oh, Mom, I just CAN’T believe it has taken me THREE WHOLE MONTHS to get my stomach back. You never told me it would take THAT long.”
When I look at the body that once housed my little miracle, yet now resembles a discarded chrysalis, I wonder if it will ever return to normal. And, to be honest, my normal was, well, just normal. I had what good friends refer to as The Duck Butt, and had never known pigment (except, of course, for a few freckles to break up the monotony).
Throughout my life, people reassured me that looks don’t matter. I had a charming personality - that would carry me through. But, whether I like it or not, I realize we live in a judgemental society. One that sees cottage cheese on legs and hairy moles on chins.
So, how do I give my daughter self-confidence?
How do I enforce that even though we live in a world where people judge you first on looks, then on personality, that it is the latter that makes you beautiful?
Will she believe me when I tell her that I will ALWAYS love her, no matter what she looks like?
How do I assure her that her body is a beautiful creation, one to be respected and loved, despite what we might see as its imperfections?
And, perhaps most importantly, how do I teach her to not judge? To look past the packaging and discover the hearts of others?
At the end of the day, I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. However, I hope and I pray I can model confidence in myself and love for others.
So, here we are, ready to swim. May my fears and insecurities never get in the way of me being by her side, ready for any adventure.