Ah, swimsuit season: The season that puts a cringe on your face faster than the thought of another long, hard winter!

I’m not a huge fan of swimming, but I do try to have a suit on hand for kayaking, bringing the kids to the beach, and the few-and-far-between stays at a hotel waterpark.

It was the last example that caught me off guard recently.

I was out shopping the winter clothing deals when I happened to see a rack of swimsuits. This wouldn’t normally be such a big deal; however, I’ve spent my winter munching on strawberry wafers, chocolate, and most anything I can get my hands on. This has resulted in an unmentionable amount of weight gain.

In an instant, I remembered that I had booked a winter getaway at an indoor waterpark not more than two weeks away, and I did not own a swimsuit to fit my new “winter warm” size.

This realization turned my relaxing shopping getaway into a nightmare.

I started grabbing all shapes, sizes, and colors off the rack in an effort to only have to make one trip to the dreaded dressing room. The scene in that tiny, square room was frightening. There was even one suit I was worried I couldn’t find my way out of!

But as I was trying on suits, I realized something: My actions and attitudes about wearing a swimsuit will be seen by my daughters. Ouch.

I have 15-year-old and 7-year-old daughters. My 7-year-old couldn’t care less about her body image or what she looks like in a swimsuit. My teenager, however, is learning that we as women tend to spend a lot of time agonizing over those small pieces of Lycra.

We’ve always been a modest swimsuit family, opting for tankinis and board shorts. But that doesn’t necessarily take the awkwardness out of the situation.

Recently, my 15-year-old asked me if she would inherit my hips. (The hips that birthed six children.) I calmly and rationally explained that yes, she would indeed carry on our family’s hips. I even did a fairly decent spin job on the benefits of those birthing hips!

But I realized that my daughter was already starting to feel self-conscious about her God-given body shape, and that I had to do something about it.

I needed to find a swimsuit that fit, coordinated with matching swim top and shorts, and gave me the confidence to rock it all around the water park. So rather than opting for the black, body-slimming suit that so desperately called my name, I chose something bright and colorful. I wanted to stand out — not to all the other water park visitors — but to my daughters. I needed to appear (fake it until you make it?) confident in my modest suit, to give my daughters the nonverbal permission they needed to feel comfortable in their own skin.

So in and out of the pool, down the waterslide, and around the lazy river, I played with my girls. I tried to remember not to look ashamed of my body, to just let it be. And while it can be difficult to override a lifetime of unconscious body shame, I found it to be quite freeing. With beach season still a few months out, I would love to find a way to fit back into my old suit. But even if I don’t, I’ll be rocking the sandy shores in as much confidence as I can muster for the sake of my girls.

Esther Aspling

Author Esther Aspling

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