Summer is officially here and that means it is time for some water play. You know the type – it makes kids giggle to the point of near explosion and then causes them to sleep like the dead?

Glory hallelujah.

We spend a lot of time at the pool during the summer. It is something the whole family can enjoy and then there is also the previously mentioned sleeping voodoo magic.

For me, it also means it is the dreaded bathing suit season. Oy.

Over the course of the summer we will see many people of varying ages and body types showing a lot more skin than those snowsuits permitted all winter. Some are super fit and trim (we do live in the healthiest city in the healthiest state) and others are curvy with a possible roll or two.

I have always seen them. Ashamedly, I might have even sized myself up or compared myself to them a time or two. (BTW… I’m not proud of this, I am just trying to #KeepItReal)

But this summer something is different. It is less about me. (Don’t get me wrong… the insecurities are still there, raging, in full force.) But this summer I have a new perspective.

Brace yourselves….

I am now seeing these things from a middle school boy’s perspective. 

dun dun dun

To those women at the pool braving their suits, thank you.

Thank you for showing my kids that confident bathing suit-wearing women come in all shapes and sizes.

Thank you for helping offset the cultural pressures of body image.

Thank you for demonstrating that participation is more important than perfection.

Our culture is so focused on beauty and sexuality that we are doing our youth a disservice in making them think that we are all supposed to look like the airbrushed bombshells on the glossy fronts of magazines.

It’s not just about the women either. I want my boys to understand a real man’s body, a man who is working 40+ hours a week to provide for his family and still maintain his health. As opposed to the man who is practically living at the gym, baking in the tanning bed, and pumping his body full of steroids.

I understand that no matter my efforts to screen their movies/television and guard their little hearts (which I won’t be able to do for the rest of their lives), inevitably, my kids will see women in bikinis (or less). At some point they might even feel pressured to compare themselves to those photoshopped and professionally groomed models.

This breaks my heart as I now have my daughter’s perspective to consider as well.

I don’t want her to grow up trying to reach this attainable level of perfection and I surely don’t want my sons to expect that of their future wives. As their mama, I take responsibly for teaching them about modesty and appropriate clothing.

Lord help me.

I had my first kiddo almost 12 years ago and I don’t think I have been truly comfortable in my skin ever since. I have stretch marks, cellulite, and just some overall fluff. I am not perfect and I’ll never have a model body.

That’s OK.

But here is the thing – I have worked really hard just to get to this point and sometimes I wear my bikini and other days I feel more comfortable in my one piece. (Let’s not make the debate about the suit… OK?)

I am working with what I’ve got, embracing it perhaps, and I have to go first if I want them to adopt this perspective. I will not let shame and embarrassment keep me on the sidelines under my muumuu. I want to be a mom that sets the example of a healthy lifestyle and participation.

I want our kids to adopt this realistic perspective of body image.

I want them to appreciate and respect their bodies as well as those around them.

Basically, I want the pool to be about swimming not a swim suit competition.

So again, thank you to the women who are bravely mustering the courage and confidence to be real and participate.

You are beautiful and I am grateful for you.

This article originally appeared on ChristenSpratt.com

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Christen Spratt

Christen is the wife to one (he is the coolest engineer you will ever meet) and a mother to four (one from her teen pregnancy, one with epilepsy, one with SPED needs, and the fourth may or may not be related to the Hulk.) She is a recovering “perfect wife/mom,” up to her eyeballs in all things motherhood. She doesn’t have a Pinteresting life, she doesn’t cut sandwiches into dolphins, she doesn’t have a perfect marriage, and she regularly shares all this good/bad/ugly with her sweet readers over at http://christenspratt.com/. Christen is passionate about authenticity and frequently writes about the FaKebook phenomena, parenting, marriage, and faith while keeping a canny sense of humor. It is her heart to offer hope to other moms in the trenches. You can also find her on Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/christenspratt, Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/christenspratt/, and Twitter - https://twitter.com/christenspratt.

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