Friday, August 7, 2015

The Bikini Question

So it's been awhile...summers are crazy.  I say that like the rest of the year is not crazy.  But the rest of the year I have this support structure in place to take care of things.  Summer time...all that goes out the window.  Camps that I can afford do not cover a full work day.  Super hero days are sprung on me hours beforehand.  A different location every week.  It becomes exhausting.  In addition to all that, work is at it's fever pitch for both Clif and I during the summer months.  At least it always seems to work out that way.

I love summer, but I'm kind of glad that things will be slowing down after today.  Camps are over for Ainsley, she'll spend the rest of her summer traveling up and down the eastern seaboard.

So my point is that I have a lot of updating to do.  Freddie graduated from preschool, Cohen turned 2, Ainsley turned 8 and life has been chugging along.  But I'll save that for another day, when my pictures are not being held hostage in my Mac Book.

Today I'm contemplating parenting decisions.  When am I not, right?  You know what they don't tell you about being a parent?  That you'll have this little baby, and you'll make all these enormous decisions...breast or bottle, cloth or disposable, organic or not, preschool or daycare, stay at home or work away.  All these things that you think are so difficult to decide and will totally mold your baby.  But now, I can sit on the other side of that baby mess and say those are not the big decisions.  I mean, they're hard, and you stress over them, and I'm not belittling them.  I definitely thought about all of those things for months before my kids were born.  But the really big, character molding decisions...they happen in the tiniest of moments, when you least expect them.  They are things that you did not discuss or ponder over as your baby rolled in your belly. They happen in Target or at the playground or in the bath tub.  They slap you in the face when you're rushing out the door to swim lessons or when you're late for work...again.

I had one such moment recently and it made me feel like such a hypocrite that it's all I've thought about for weeks.  It happened as I was getting the boys ready to go to the pool one afternoon.  I had already packed up Ainsley's suit and towel and now we could pick her up and go straight to the pool for a couple of hours before rushing home to start dinner.  Freddie refused to put on his rash guard shirt, and honestly I didn't really fight him on it.  It's totally fine for boys to wear just their shorts at the pool, especially at 5PM when the sun wasn't a factor.

And as the words "Sure, whatever you're comfortable in" left my mouth, it rolled over me like a truck.  This deep worry in the pit of my stomach.  This realization that I was a part of the problem that I so desperately wanted to fix for my children and my grandchildren.

Ainsley hadn't been able to wear a bikini since she was a toddler.  I felt that I should try and establish a healthy environment where she wasn't wearing skimpy clothes.  But instead it had become a point of contention.  Ainsley wanted to know why she couldn't wear bikinis.  Originally, my intentions were good. Maybe it's not appropriate for a little girl to wear a bikini.  But why?  I couldn't really answer that question, other than she was a little girl and I didn't want to make her a target.  Didn't want her to think that she should dress in skimpy clothes.  Wanted her to place value on her internal strengths, rather than her external ones.  All those "build girls up," "healthy body image," "don't sexualize a child" things you hear and read.

But in that moment, I realized that I had done exactly the opposite of what I wanted to accomplish.  Without a moment's hesitation I had agreed to let Freddie go shirtless, but I wouldn't let Ainsley wear a bikini in a setting where she was already WAY less dressed than either of her brothers.  And I had no explanation.  All I could conjure up was "she's a girl," and that is BULLSHIT.

So how do I undo that?  How do I now go back on what I had said and say a bikini is okay without pushing it on her.  And how do I make sure that she still feels all those things that I was trying to instill by not allowing the bikini?


In the end, she asked for a bikini and I bought her one.  I tried to explain that I was wrong, that it shouldn't matter what she wears as long as she's comfortable in it and happy with how it makes her feel.  I asked her why a bikini was so important to her and she told me it made her look cute.  I asked her how it made her feel and she said happy.

So ridiculous that all this angst happens over a bikini. A little item of clothing that only gets worn for a few months of the year.  But all this big stuff happens in these little moments and insignificant decisions.  I still don't know what I'll say if she comes home at 14 with daisy dukes and a halter top that she wants to wear to school.  Because the truth is that the world is going to label her because of it.  I can do my best to alter my own opinions and show her how to be her best woman no matter the clothes, but that's not going to change the world view.

I'm at a loss in this department.  It feels like a tug of war, go too far one way and you end up in the mud.  I guess I just hope that Ainsley can forgive me for all the missteps and she's smart enough and strong enough to make her own decisions and stick by them. That she finds an inner confidence that will take her past all the bullshit.  In the end, I hope that's what I can give her no matter what she's wearing.
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