Modesty, Swimsuits, and How I Failed as a Mom

I’ll be the first to say I’ve talked a big talk over the years about modesty and why I would not let my daughter wear a bikini. If I’m honest, I probably have burned some bridges with my strong opinion regarding the matter. I’ve likely been harsh with some and hurt feelings along the way, and for that I am truly sorry.

Just last week, after the millionth time my daughter asked about having a two piece (not a tankini but a true bikini two piece that doesn’t cover the stomach), I realized what I have been doing all these years. Most importantly, I realized what I was doing was wrong.

This all started last week as I was at the pool watching kids play. I saw something that I somehow have never seen before. I saw all of the shirtless boys in their swim trunks. That’s when it hit me – HARD.

All of our boys are allowed to go swimming in shorts and no shirt, and it has never once been questioned or debated. However, I won’t let my daughter wear a swimsuit that shows a little bit of her stomach and back because it’s “not appropriate.” What kind of message am I giving her? What kind of message am I giving my boys? What kind of message am I giving other boys?

First Thing’s First

Let me start with modesty. My reason for this very strong decision about bikinis has been that we need to be modest and appropriate in what we wear. Think about that word, modest. Before reading on, think to yourself what it means. It occurred to me I had never even looked up the meaning until I came to this realization that I had a double standard with my children.

According to dictionary.com, the definition of modesty is “having or showing a moderate or humble estimate of one’s merits, importance, etc.; free from vanity, egotism, boastfulness, or great pretensions; free from ostentation or showy extravagance; having or showing regard for the decencies of behavior, speech, dress, etc.; decent.”

To go a little deeper, the definition of decent is “respectable; worthy.”

I realized that a two piece swimsuit is no more or less modest than a one piece swimsuit because the definition in my head of modesty was very different than the true definition. One piece or two piece, they can both come modest or incredibly indecent and not remotely modest. Showing the stomach doesn’t change that.

After deciding to surprise my daughter with a new swimsuit before our quick trip to the beach, I came to another realization. I noticed some things about the times in my life where I’ve worn a bikini versus when I’ve covered myself up. Wouldn’t you know, that it never once had anything to do with modesty? It always had to do with how comfortable I felt with the shape of my body.

This is not something I want to pass down to my child. The idea that you cover your body more when you’re ashamed of it but show more when you’re not is a very unhealthy way of thinking. Our bodies are perfect, and we should love them. And for mommies, it is so important to realize we have beautiful bodies that have worked so hard for our babies. Not looking like the airbrushed supermodels and celebrities is nothing to be ashamed of!

In that moment, I realized how much I’ve been picking apart everything I see wrong with my body, and I have been wearing a swimsuit that was so uncomfortable to actually swim in because it felt like I was wearing regular clothes instead of a swim suit, and I spend so much time adjusting everything to make sure it’s covering me up that I rarely get to enjoy myself.

So I made another big decision. Although I packed my swimsuit that keeps everything covered and hidden for our trip, I also packed a two piece that I hadn’t worn in a couple of years. I decided not to be ashamed of my body anymore and instead to enjoy my weekend with my family in a swimsuit that felt like a swimsuit to me.

Last weekend, my daughter and I wore our two piece swimsuits proudly, and I didn’t once feel self-conscious or as if what I was wearing wasn’t appropriate. Instead of bothering with our swimsuits like usual, we spent our time laughing and having fun, although she and I did end up with some red backs because they weren’t used to seeing the sun! oops

Doing My Part as Mom

My job is to teach all of my children to respect and love their bodies. It’s my job to stress respect over modesty, and that’s where I have wronged them. I’ve focused so much on what’s appropriate and what’s not that I haven’t allowed them to learn that respecting their bodies is the most important thing and will lead them to a place where they know what is appropriate and what is not. I don’t want my daughter to feel like she has to be shameful of her body, and I don’t want my sons to think a female’s body should be hidden if it isn’t perfect. I also want them to learn to respect their own bodies so they can more easily respect the bodies of others. This whole idea of a girl showing her stomach being something inappropriate because it’s too sexual for boys is absurd. We need to teach our sons and daughters that our bodies should be respected and protected – not that they are something dirty and sexual.

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