I can’t remember learning to swim, though I do remember swimming lessons, specifically taking the life-saving course at Pymble pool in the summer holidays while my younger siblings were learning to swim and going to the school swimming scheme in primary school. I know diving clicked for me when I was 9 and we were in Tahiti on our way to the US where my dad was going for a 4 month sabbatical. There is also the family story of sibling rivalry wherein I was going without floaties for the first time at 3 years old and my sister, 21 months younger than me, decided that meant she could too and plunged straight to the bottom of the ocean pool.
I have so many cherished childhood memories of swimming. Out beyond the breakers with my uncle and cousin, body surfing and ending up with a cossie full of sand on numerous beach camping holidays. Floating on airbeds in the Kangaroo River, again with our cousin. Canoeing and swimming in Smiths Lake and swimming out to help my sister and cousin who were having steering issues with their canoe. My sister and I swimming out to the pontoon in the middle of the bay at the resort in Crete and FREAKING our parents out because it was so far off shore, I was 14 (Dad swam out to “rescue” us, we beat him back to shore by a long shot and then he got disoriented on the way back and ended up off to billy-o around the shore-line). At 15 years old, going to the YMCA in Boulder Colorado on a Friday night for a family outing at the pool, in winter, and stopping off at Baskin and Robbins on the way home. Getting up at 6am to go with my Mum to the local pool to swim 1km before breakfast on school days during my HSC year.
By the time that last one was happening I had well and truly reached the point where I felt uncomfortable in a swimming costume in public. It was an effort to go to a public pool and take my clothes off, the less time there was between removing my shirt and getting in the water the better. I was about half the weight I am now.
When I had kids I made a conscious decision that my issues with my body would not stand in the way of them having the fun of beaches and swimming pools and all the things that I loved so much when I was a kid. I made that decision long before I’d even heard of Fat Acceptance and it was hard to follow through on. For a long time I had to have at least a day’s notice before a trip to the local swimming pool, I needed to psych myself up to it and wake in the morning knowing that we were going. Going on beach camping holidays was an exercise in being tense and hyper self-conscious for a whole weekend, or a whole week. Even being in my in-law’s backyard pool was challenging, not that any of my in-laws have ever said a single word to me about my weight, but still.
But I did it and I’m glad I did. For one thing I have photos like these and the memories to go with them.
I had conversations with small children at beaches who informed me, as small children will, “You’re fat!” and I found that I could respond with humour and be ok.
I got to be the one teaching my kids how to watch the breaking waves and decide to either jump over or dive under. (With help from Grandma!)
Last summer I tended to be the one behind the camera, but I was still there, at the beach and the pool, in my swimming costume and in the water.