It's the first day of my beach vacation. I pour myself into my new bikini and avoid all close encounters with the mirror before heading out the door. I don't feel great, my post-baby belly edging out over the top of the bikini bottoms, so I try to rearrange my bikini top to enhance my droopy mom boobs as I flip-flop my way to the beach.
I do not feel confident in my swimsuit. I do, however, feel confident that if I stand just the right way, with my butt cheeks angled out to sea and my arms crossed to draw all attention to my boobs, I can almost look skinny. Probably not supermodel skinny, but certainly MILF-worthy.
As my husband plants our beach umbrella in the sand and the kids scamper off to run in the surf, I slowly slip my cute beach shirt up and over my head. My eyes dart to and fro, one staying firmly fixed on the kids and the other on the look-out for anyone who might be looking at my figure with disdain.
I finally make it down to the surf, my toes curling in the soft, wet sand, the small waves lapping around my ankles. I twist and turn, check and double-check, push my sunglasses back up my nose and as a last ditch effort, suck in my gut and prepare to stand in this position for the rest of the day.
Thirty seconds later, my daughters clamor for me to come down and play in the sand with them. And that is when I realize that you can't suck it in for eight hours. You can't stand in that perfect position, with the sun shining on your best features and the shadows hiding all the others away, and enjoy your life, your very existence at the same time.
You can suck it in for a minute or even two. You can suck it in long enough for your partner to give you an appreciative glance and maybe even a catcall. You can suck it in if an especially good-looking group of 20-somethings runs past you, Baywatch-style. Most importantly, you can suck it in long enough to take that one good photo, a perfect moment that you can conveniently store away as your entire memory of the vacation.
For the rest of those eight hours, all 478 glorious minutes of sun, sand and sunscreen, you can let it all go. That's what I do. I fill the rest of my beach days with laughs and giggles; buried hands and feet; tiny, sandy butt cheeks and smiling faces. I let go of my need to project the perfect image, to try and convince a group of complete strangers whom I will likely never see again that I am a fit fashionista straight from the runway.
As I let out that deep breath I'm holding, watching my tummy pooch sink back down to the edge of my bikini bottoms and the sunlight illuminate the stretchmarks on my thighs, I look down into the bright blue eyes of my little girls and vow never again to let vanity stand between me and them. Well, maybe not never, but at least until the next time I try to suck it in for eight hours.