What My Daughter Is Really Getting Out Of Swimming Lessons
We recently started our two kids at swimming lessons, like most other Australian parents do. We are an island country and a seriously hot one too (did you hear about our recent heat wave? 50 degrees some days! 50!). Both hubby and I figure it’s the best thing to do for the kids. You know, teach them about water safety, get them comfortable and confident. So off we went to our local indoor pool. The kids were excited! We were excited! We got our new swipe card and headed off to get changed, my hubby looked after our son while I took our 3 year old daughter to the women’s change rooms.
How long has it been since you’ve been to a public pool? During work hours? On a weekday?
We weren’t the main clientele for this particular time of day and the women’s change room was a chatty mix of women of all shapes and sizes but mostly over the age of 60.
My daughter stopped.
And stared some more.
There were wrinkly naked bodies everywhere!
I don’t think she has ever seen an old naked body. She’s seen me, she’s seen her daddy nude and her little brother. But these women were a whole new world for her.
The confidence that these women showed getting dressed and undressed in front of each other was something to admire.
I paused for a minute, weighing up what to do. I’m generally a bit of a change room prude. I have mastered the art of getting changed without getting nude thanks to years of all girls high school changing rooms. I looked at the small toilet cubicles with their lockable doors, getting both myself and my daughter changed in there would just be ridiculous. I took a deep breath and walked the other way. Over to the open bench.
I put down our bags and started to get my daughter changed. Being nude hasn’t reached taboo point for her yet. She’s very comfortable in her own skin and didn’t bat an eye lid at joining in the communal nudity briefly before having her Dora The Explorer swimmers pulled on. Next it was my turn. A deep breath and there.
I was nude.
I did feel a bit self conscious but after a brief moment I had to stop myself. There was absolutely no reason for me to feel anything but proud.
Here I stood with my daughter whom this body created and nourished.
Here I stood with a room full of other women, who may well be mothers themselves or probably even grandmothers now.
Our bodies are no longer something to obsess over, nit pick.
Our bodies have become something to celebrate, cherish, be in awe of.
I never expected this when our kids booked in to swimming lessons.
I thought the most my daughter would learn was how to at least relax in the water.
I never expected her to have a lesson in the amazing uniqueness of the human body.
Yes, you see people of all shapes and sizes no matter where you go. But somehow, behind clothes, we all still look kind of similar. But when you’re all naked, every unique quality is bared.
She hasn’t mentioned a word to me about these naked women, but I can see the questions brewing as she openly stares at the other women in the change room.
The whole experience reminds me of a trip to Japan nearly 10 years ago. I went travelling with a couple of friends from high school and we spent lots of time in the beautiful onsens (hot bath houses), which are gender segregated. There is a very healthy, very open nude culture at these bath houses. Whole families of women go together and enjoy the hot baths. Young girls, like my daughter, with their mothers, like me, surrounded by grandmothers, like the women at the pool.
What a wonderful gift for a young girl. These women aren’t standing around saying “oh my boobs are too small, too droopy. I’m too pale, too wrinkly”. They are just having regular conversations. Family stuff. Work stuff. Health stuff.
What a shift from the seriously unrealistic and all too homogenous mass media. I have to say though, we are fairly protected from that crap at our place. We don’t have a TV and the only magazines I buy are food related.
So as long as I can, I will keep taking my daughter to her swim lessons. Maybe she won’t ever be a very good swimmer (her mummy isn’t either!) but hopefully these early days will help cement the kind of unwavering body confidence and pride that will help build solid defences against the kind of self demonising crap that is pushed on to girls.
To my daughter, your body is strong, it is amazing and it is yours.