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Suiting Up

Suiting Up

Published: 06/01/2011 by Malia Jacobson

» Fashion
» Words of Wisdom


When I haul my kids to the beach and water park this summer, I’ll be sporting a spanking-new swimsuit. With its sturdy straps and sensible seat coverage, it doesn’t resemble anything you’d see on a runway. No whimsical flight of poolside fancy, this baby is built to withstand everything from ultra-chlorinated kiddie pools to sand castle-building marathons. Jelly fingerprints and sippy cup mishaps are no match for its industrialstrength fabric

It’s a mom suit, and I’ll wear it with pride.

When I slip on this wonder of engineering, I’ll join legions of other moms slapping on sunscreen and proffering towels while wearing suits built for endurance, not style.

I’ve been a bit reluctant in donning this mom suit of armor. (Or is it Lycra? No matter. It feels the same.) I grew up in the water, and most of my younger suits involved ruffles or sequins, preferably both. As a teen, I became a devoted fan of the two-piece. Bikinis suited my pear shape and showcased my still-flat midsection (one of my better features, in those days).

Sadly, I’ve learned that the pretty swimsuits of my youth aren’t built to withstand the pace of mom life. But like many of motherhood’s lessons, this one dawned slowly. My first inklings came after several seaside afternoons spent sprinting after my toddler in a woefully unsupportive top. Need I say more? I quickly realized that my fashionable swimsuits were only flattering if you didn’t have to move much. I was constantly adjusting my top and feeling up my own rear end for tactile evidence that my bottom was still actually covering my bottom. Not pretty.

I knew change was in the air. That knowledge, however, was insufficient. It took a starring role in a peep show at swim class to drive the point home.

One Saturday, I made the mistake of wearing a bandeaustyle bikini to parent-child swim at the community pool.Sporting a stretched-out top in a pool full of wiggly kids sounds like a recipe for disaster, and it was: I inadvertently flashed the entire pool full of kids and their stunned parents when my top slipped down during the “jumping fish” song.

By the time I felt the breeze tickling my upper torso, it was too late to hide from the extremely embarrassed dad standing five feet in front of me. I scraped together the few shreds of dignity I had left, hoisted my top to its rightful place, and swore to get a new suit better matched to my new station in life.

Post-flash, I’m approaching the world of swimwear with a new perspective. In the weary trenches of early parenthood, function trumps fashion. Any bikini matching the description itsy-bitsy or teeny-weeny doesn’t stand a chance in the chaotic world of the toddler pool. Suits designed to look good in a lounge chair require constant monitoring and repositioning, and we moms just can’t be bothered. We’re too busy monitoring and repositioning our kids.

Judging from the countless moms I’ve seen in near-identical suits, I know I’m not alone in my appreciation for sensible swimwear. Most suits just can’t keep up with us. Some know this intuitively; others (like me) learn the hard way.

Swimming with kids is no day at the beach; it’s grueling, hot, exhausting work. A mom at the pool is a mom in motion, and her swimsuit needs to stay in place even when she’s too busy to pay attention to it. That’s always.

So I’m embracing my sensible one-piece. It won’t win me any admiring glances or a spot on the yummy mummy list.But it will stand up to whatever the summer dishes out. And I don’t have to worry about any more swim class wardrobe malfunctions. The entire toddler-swim community will thank me, I’m sure.

Malia Jacobson is a freelance writer and mom of two. She got her mom suit at a discount store, on sale — and she plans to go back for more.