Is good for the gander.
I was still dripping as I returned from the pool party I’d been chaperoning. My hungry little six year old was also making wet footprints across the kitchen floor as she munched on an apple and peeled the layers from her body. Hearing we were back, I heard the familiar steps of our 15 year old. I’d recently marveled at the revelation that I could actually hear, in the footsteps, which child was coming up the stairs. Must be a mom thing. (Now I know how she did it all those years…well, not necessarily ‘how’ but that she could actually know.)
I could tell by the look on her face she was agitated. My sweet Type A firstborn, whom I’m almost certain will try to graduate from high school early so she can just get it over with, needed my advice. We walked into my room and she shut the door.
“Mom. I can’t go.” She told me. “I just can’t.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“I don’t have a swimsuit.” She replied.
The one she was wearing horrified her and she’d already tried on two of mine. Next came the soaking wet one now resting in my bathroom sink. They were all a bit..too…vavavoomy. I gave up long ago on even pretending people didn’t notice that I am what my parents called ‘well endowed’. After nursing six kids and the inflating/deflating that comes with it, my swimsuits can tell stories. Stories the poor fifteen year old who was desperate enough to try on an oversized, cold and wet one has no inkling of yet. Needless to say, that too, was a ‘No-Go’.
She was practically in despair. I asked her ‘why’. Her response, ‘I don’t know.’
‘Honey.’ I told her. ‘You are so so lovely. What is it about you that makes you so nervous?’
It took some pauses and some thinking but she finally admitted a couple of her physical insecurities and there is no way I’m revealing those for the blogging world to see. Suffice it to say, they just made me sad.
This amazing little girl of mine, who always seems to have it together, who loves people and socializing, who loves her friends and the adults she would be spending the evening with was about to make the mistake of staying home. Not because she had other priorities. Not because there was some sort of assignment keeping her here. But because somehow, someway, those nasty little voices have crept in somehow and crushed the confidence I’ve come to greatly admire in her.
Our conversation ended with the usual reassurances and in my haste to meet the needs of the others, figured we were done. She would be insecure but she’d find some sort of golden nugget in my lazy wisdom and head over to the party.
Except, not really. No. It didn’t help. The next time I found her, she was curled up in a ball, under a blanket reading a book. This was not the comfy sort of ball my girl gets into while sinking her teeth into a new book. This was the sort of ball that comes from debilitating hurt. The kind where she is shutting out the world.
It was a little frightening. This sort of retreat has been happening more and more in the last few weeks since we told the kids we’re moving. In the chaos of it all, I hadn’t noticed until now. She didn’t need the ‘Don’t worry, you’re so lovely’ lecture. She needed something more reaffirming. Something real.
Within a few minutes, a secret friend was at my back door, armed with about a dozen swimsuits, responding to a desperate phone call. She handed them to me quietly then slipped away. I don’t know how, but somehow I knew, this would be a temporary fix. I returned to Sunshine’s bedroom and the blanketed lump on her bed, playfully launching the swimsuits upon her. She instantly perked up as I left. It was kind of an opposite-evil-stepmother moment and it was very satisfying.
A few moments later, she emerged from her room triumphantly dressed in a red swimsuit that made her waist look tiny. She still wore shorts that clashed a little but at least I got her in a suit. And with that, she was ready to go out and have some fun. Just like that, I stifled those nasty little voices screaming vulgarities at my daughter. If I could’ve, I’d take an invisible machete and hack them all to pieces. But I couldn’t. I knew they’d be back. And they’ll come back with a vengeance. They always do.
Tonight, I’ve been sitting on my couch reflecting upon this. Wondering how I’m going to neutralize those voices the next time they sneak in. Everyone is asleep and my head is clear. It’s at this moment I see the events of today with even more frightening clarity.
Sunshine and I both went to pool parties today. I had encouraged her not to be ashamed of her body. I assured her there was absolutely no reason for her to be self-conscious. I reminded her she’d be among friends who love her and would never scrutinize her for her clothing.
Then there was me. At the party I went to, I wore a short summer dress the entire time…even when I was in the water. My friends encouraged me to take the dress off but I refused. I was scared. But I don’t know of what. It’s not like the people I was with had any interest in critiquing how I look in a bathing suit after squeezing six human beings from my body.
It’s in the darkness of my living room, listening to the distant sound of someone sawing some serious logs, that I realize what a hypocritical chicken I really am. My 15 year old is much braver than I’ve ever been. At least she had the courage to face her fears and get in that blasted swimsuit. My lousy excuse was that I didn’t want to run the risk of traumatizing small children. That’s so dumb really.
If I want to stop those ugly voices, I’ve got to block the gaping hole their coming in through. I try to eat right and exercise every day. When did that stop being enough? If I’m perfectly honest with myself, it never was enough. How am I ever going to convince my daughters their sincere efforts are enough if I’m not sure they are myself?
I’m running out of time. Sunshine’s going to be on her own in a few very short years. While yes, this is somewhat about me, this is no longer about me. It’s about her. It’s about them. I have some changes to make to help them avoid some of the pitfalls I fell into. In other words, it’s time to wear the swimsuit.