If I could choose between living in Antarctica or the tropics, I would book my ticket to the frozen tundra in a nanosecond. I hate hot weather. I hate getting sweaty (one of my many reasons for not working out) and I’d rather sport an oversized hoodie than a swimsuit any day. I’d rather have a snowball fight than a tanning session. So when my little one started talking and walking this last spring, my heart froze. Not because of the last shivers of the season, but because I knew of what my summer would entail. Pleas to go to the pool, waterpark, beach, anywhere my little fish could swim and have fun. Beggings of one last swim before the park closed for the evening. Splashes bigger than any that could come from bath time. All of it happening with me, a mom who hasn’t lost the baby weight and who would rather hide in her air-conditioned apartment than brave the humid outdoors.

The first time we went swimming this summer was at a close friend’s pool in her backyard. High fences, a private environment, and friends who understood my weight woes. I was so grateful for homecourt advantage. My little one got to splash and tire himself out while I got more comfortable baring myself beyond the shower. A few weeks later, I was not so lucky. We drove past the aquatic center near our home and immediately from my backseat I heard, “Spwash pwease!”

I clenched my steering wheel and sat in silence, hoping he would let it go. But another plea came, this time more enthusiastically. I let out a deep sigh and agreed to one night to the aquatic center. The day before Memorial Day I got out of work early and picked up my little one from daycare. I dreaded going home to pack our swim bag. While he ran around looking for swim toys, I dug through my closet looking for a swimsuit cover or shirt; anything to help me hide.

When we got to the center the first thing I noticed was the amount of kids. Which was matched by the amount of parents. Parents, grandparents, babysitters, cousins, anyone and everyone was there that day. And everyone around me was smiling and having fun. Kids ran in swim trunks and frilly, Frozen bathing suits and adults wore…swimsuits. Just swimsuits. Not one adult seemed to care if their wrinkles, fat, abs, mom bods, dad bods, or sunburns were showing.

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Lifeguards smiled as we walked to find an open chair to hold our swim bag. My toddler giggled and pointed impatiently while I dropped off our stuff…including my oversized t-shirt I had brought. At first I was nervous. I was in my baggy mom swimsuit, complete with skirted bottom to hide my extra cellulite and stretchmarks. But the minute my toddler yanked my hand and squealed with delight at seeing an interactive fountain, my worries melted into his smile. And I realized something that day: My toddler doesn’t care about me being covered. He cares about me being there. In making memories and making time for him. Then I looked around and saw the friendly smiles of the adults around me. We all shared a special moment that night: making memories with our families before the holiday. The parents and lifeguards cared more about me supervising my child than covering my stretchmarks. So why did I care so much?

By no means have I run out and bought a mini skirt, but my son’s happiness in me spending time with him has made my summer more enjoyable. I worry less about my looks and more about the experiences. I wear shorts to work (work-appropriate of course), so I’m not miserable in pants all day, I wear sleeveless tops to drinks with the girls on the patio, and, most importantly, I smile more. I smile at seeing my son’s smiles and joys in the little things in life. I’ve realized that I don’t want to hide because I don’t want him to miss out on summer’s (and life’s) adventures.

So thank you to my little one, for giving me a better summer.

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