My kids used to call out to me, “Mommy! Come swim with us!” I’d see them giggling and laughing in the water, becoming me to join in their fun. My heart ached with the want to. But I usually held back.
I had good excuses. Mommy doesn’t like to be cold. Mommy doesn’t like to be wet. Mommy is too tired. Mommy has to mind the baby. I’ll swim with you later. Maybe next time.
All of that is true. But there was also a secret deep in my soul that I never spoke aloud: mommy hates being seen in a swimsuit. And the four people on earth who’d never judge me for my body are the usually the ones paying the price for my shame.
Sure, I swam a handful of times over the years. Reluctantly. Always self conscious and never for long. The kids eventually came to believe that mommy hates swimming. And I hated that.
This summer, as I packed for our family vacation, I paused when I held my suit. It has long been a source of angst. But now it represented something worse: years and years of missed opportunities. My babies are growing up. They will soon be leaving the nest. “I’ll swim with you later” is either now or it’ll be never.
And I’m done sitting on the sidelines.
So I made a choice. I would swim with the kids on this trip. Every chance I could. No matter how cold the water. No matter how tired I was. No matter how I felt in my suit. I was determined to say yes to swimming. No hesitation. No shame. No more saying no.
The kids looked up with surprise when I walked down to the beach in my suit. They tentatively asked if I was coming in. And I breezily said, “yes.”
Their faces lit with delight and anticipation as I swam out to the raft. I bragged that mommy grew up on a lake and just watch what I can do. Their eyes widened when I tried a back dive and they doubled over with laughter when I came up sputtering. And it was only the beginning.
I waded into the frigid waters of Lake Michigan and joined the kids on the sand bar. We shrieked as the waves crashed over our heads and posed for family selfies in the surf. I spent every day in the water, keeping up with the kids stroke for stroke. And it was awesome.
It seemed as if they couldn’t get enough of my yeses … yes to an early morning swim. Yes to a before bed swim. Yes I will sit on the raft with you. Yes I will teach you to dive. Yes I will stay in the water a bit longer. They could hardly reconcile the mom they knew with the mom treading water before them. But they were overjoyed with the change.
If I could go back in time, I would never let shame hold me back from the simple joy of swimming with my kids. But I’m not going to sit in regret. I’m going to look forward. Because if this week taught me anything, it taught me that it’s never too late to start.
And while I might still decline when the water is cold, I’m not going to let negative voices about my body force me to sit out ever again. My kids deserve better than that. And so do I.