Photo credit: therapycatguardian via flickr Creative Commons.
This post was written by Parentables contributor Marla Garfield.
Wearing a bathing suit in public is worse than cleaning explosive diarrhea.
There are several things you have to do, just by virtue of being a parent, that are mortifying and revolting but are rites of passage:
Wiping away poop that has crawled up your baby's back
Digging into your baby's nose for crusty snot
Inspecting your baby's butt crack for rashes
Rinsing your baby's drool and/or vomit out of your own mouth
I'd like to take this opportunity to add to the list: taking your baby to the pool.
This is how smart I am: I signed up The Heir for swim class. In New York. In winter. Which means that not only do I pluck my child out of water and then transfer him outside into the brutal tundra of ... Brooklyn, I have to put on a bathing suit during prime hibernation season. Take that, Mensa!
My son is more important than my fat.
We went to the first class and, so help me, Stefen is one of the oldest babies there and every mother was thinner than me. I remember taking my nephew swimming a few years ago and some of the new moms were wearing freakin' bikinis. Bikinis. God! I've been heavy my entire life; therefore, the horrifying number of insecurities I have about my body are ingrained and, for the most part, accepted. I am who I am. But I haven't taken care of myself since The Heir was born, and I dreaded standing next to women who have. Would I stand there with regret while they stood with bare midriffs? I try to be stronger than this, but no amount of body acceptance made me feel ready.
Herein lies what we do as parents: we suck up our own issues in a desperate attempt to ensure our children have far fewer than we do. I want The Heir to love water. I don't want him to be afraid of it. And now that he's receiving physical therapy for low muscle tone, the resistance it provides is immeasurably beneficial. The more times I struggle to jam myself into that godforsaken Miraclesuit, the better it is for The Heir. It's not about me. And I'd rather be tortured by something that isn't about me than by something that is any day.
Here's the good part.
I don't remember seeing very many bikinis in our class, but honestly, I didn't pay attention. At class, everybody rushes into the pool area to unwrap (scarves, carriers, hats, coats, boots), like we're all presents and our thank-you note is swim class, and then we just slide into the water. The class is at 9 a.m., so most parents are still too foggy to bother thinking about the adjustments of their own swimsuits, never mind yours. Not everybody uses the locker rooms; some just slip our clothes on and off over our suits and change the baby on the floor. So any PTSD from high school gym can go unaddressed, just the way I like it. I didn't care about the things that bothered me when I walked in, and I left not knowing how I'd looked or felt.
The big surprise (that shouldn't be, but I'm new at this) is that everybody is paying attention to the babies. Before you're a parent, putting on a bathing suit means you will be assessed for sexual value, but when you have a baby with you, putting on a bathing suit usually just means you're getting wet (unless you're super-hot). Also, while nobody wants to be invisible in this world, if you're accompanied by your cute baby on an Ugly Day, nobody looks at you anyway (unless you're super-hot). So if every Saturday morning at 9 is an Ugly Day, I'm happy to slink into the background to watch my son splash and then look at the water suspiciously, like it's about to lick him. Then I'll go home, take a shower, and hope that people assess me for my sexual value once my hair is done.
One more thing.
Our first class did not go without embarrassment. It turns out that I don't know the third line of "Pop Goes the Weasel." There we were, bouncing and singing, and when we got to the line, I did this: "A hummina bluhmina hummina huh / Pop! Goes the weasel!" So now I just make up new lyrics each time. "I'd rather be eating a sandwich right now." "I forgot to put the laundry away." "Let's go on vacation to somewhere warm." Or I try to use the line to teach Stefen something: "Picking your nose in public is a social taboo." That's just good parenting.