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.

Me, David and Caitlin in Adam’s parent’s pool
Me with Dave and Cait in Adam's parent's pool

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.






Me in my old Akubra

Me, Caitlin and Tom

Me, Tom and Caitlin

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.

Me, David and Caitlin (and my mum’s arm)

Me with Dave and Cait

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!)

Me, my Mum, David, Caitlin and Thomas

Grandma, me and kids in the surf

David boogie boarding

David boogie boarding

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.

Adam and Caitlin

Daddy and daughter

Adam and the kids.

This summer I plan to make sure I’m in the photos again.

10 thoughts on “Swimming

  1. I have a very healthy fear of the ocean (got fished out of the ocean when I was 15 after going out too far and the strong undertow preventing me from getting back to shore). I"m not a strong swimmer. My kids, however, are fish!! They all learned to swim from the time they were babies and were going off the low dive at 4years old.

  2. Those are beautiful pictures!I grew up with a pool in my back yard, starting at age five, and I do remember learning to swim in it, and going swimming with my mom (both clothed, when others were over, and nude, when it was just us). One of the best gifts my mom gave me growing up was just that: seeing a fat woman getting in the water in a swimsuit, or less, because she loved the feel of it so much. I know now she had problems finding suits to wear, and didn't feel much confidence in her body, but to me she displayed none of that, and so I grew up knowing that getting near-naked and getting wet and getting the fun of swimming was my right, no matter my size or what anyone else thought of my looks.Do I still have body doubts when entering a public pool for the first time? Of course. But I, fat woman that I am, don't let those stop me, or make me cover up with heavy shorts or baggy shirts. And I owe so much of that courage to my mother, for doing exactly what you are: showing up, and going swimming.

  3. I don't have a problem being on the beach in my bathers, but it's the chub rub that puts me off wearing bathers. And every year I search for a pair of boardies that doesn't make me feel terminally fat and frumpy – in vain! I'd like to start swimming laps again for fitness, but I am a pool purist (I like a 50m pool and nothing around here is that big – they were all big in Perth!) and getting wet hair (and the chlorine that goes with) is anathema to me. *sigh* That even sounds like excuses to me! haha. I think it's great that you are taking your kids to the beach regardless. People will always have something to say – even about the skinny chicks (how many times have you commented about wanting to force-feed someone a hamburger or ten?). Do it!

  4. @Joanie I have a healthy respect for the ocean and teaching my kids how to read a beach is right up at the top of my important stuff to know list!@Arwyn Thank you πŸ™‚ I certainly hope that's the message my kids are getting from what I do.@Suze All I ask for in boardies is that they fit, I'm way beyond caring what I look like in them. As for voicing a desire to force feed hamburgers? Never. Maybe having one of my best friends hospitalised for anorexia when we were in year 8 put any such tendencies to rest before they ever arose.

  5. lovely post. reflective. heart-felt and honest. Enjoy the summer – sounds like sunny days will be far between so make the most of each one….in bathers! πŸ™‚

  6. Ok, after you've made me a fancy-pants cake, can we go for a swim?You know, as someone who knows the whole thing around wearing togs in public as a fat woman and blah blah blah… I think it's an amazing indicator of your commitment to your children to resolve to get past all of that shit. Kudos to you Mim, kudos.

  7. I've always been somewhat in awe of your capacity to take your kids to the beach from such a young age. I don't do the beach at all well, and even the swimming pool has been mostly Crash recently. Part of my problem is the cold – Sydney beaches just take too long to get warm! But increasingly it's been the thought of finding swimmers that fit. I'm pretty determined to change that this year. No tiny babies left, no fat excuses and whole heap of fab memories that I also want to share with my kids. Great post, and thanks for the kick to remind me to get to the bleedin' beach this year. Often.

  8. Thanks Malyn, we're going to be in New Zealand in January, maybe they'll put on some decent weather for us!@Kath Cake then swim *nods* You're on :-)@Ariane I'm not sure that it's been me taking the kids to the beach, more like Adam, or perhaps even my Mum, taking me and the kids πŸ™‚

  9. Thanks blue milk, I did wonder if it might fit but I'm terrible at self-submitting – no confidence! Now I don't have to agonise πŸ™‚

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