Monday, June 21, 2010

What Do Nuns Wear To the Beach?

I have a seven year old daughter who eagerly desires to become a future Spouse of Christ. Having a potential nun in the house has really changed my viewpoint as a mother.

This past year, I suddenly became uncomfortable about my standard for dressing my daughters modestly at the beach and the pool. Initially, I dressed my girls in the same one piece bathing suits that I wore to the beach. I thought modestly simply meant skipping over the two piece bikinis that are all over the toddler racks.

Here's Hannah in a one-piece bathing suit at age 4. This was my old standard of modest dressing for the beach.
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Once Hannah started hanging out with Nuns who confirmed her future vocation to me, I started to feel uncomfortable about my bathing suit choices for my daughter.

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(Hannah with one of her best friends, Sister Peace.)

What do Nuns wear to the beach?

I couldn't imagine Sister Peace or Sister Revelation leaving their beautiful habits for a "modest" one piece.

I can't really describe it, but a small voice in my head said that if something was inappropriate for Sister Peace, it also wasn't great for Hannah. Hannah's not in a habit yet, of course. But she does wear conservative sweet dresses. I didn't want Hannah to ever look back on smiling photos of herself as a child at the beach and feel embarrassed by her immodesty.

Moreover, because Hannah is tall, this year we suddenly had to deal with unwanted male attention at the swimming pool. I didn't want some strange boy drooling over my pretty daughter in her tankini at age 7. A boy drooling over any girl at the beach is bad. A boy drooling over a girl who is pre-engaged to Jesus Christ, the chaste Savior of the World, seems so much worse!

I prayed a lot for God's help to choose a new swimsuit for Hannah. Here's the modesty solution we've come up with for this year. My girls and I have long-sleeve rash guard shirts and matching swim skirt bottoms from Lands' End. My girls love their new swimsuits. I love that the Lands' Ends suits make me appear like a Mother who is terrified of sunburn and not a crazy Catholic mother who prays 2 hours a day!

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(New Standard of Modesty: Long Sleeve Butterfly Rash Guard with Swimming Skirt from Lands' End, Hannah age 7).

Modesty became a family affair as I bought my husband and my son rash guard shirts, so that their top halves are completely covered this year.
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(Benjamins at the Pool, Summer of 2010)

When I looked at Hannah happily playing at our apartment pool for the first time this summer, I felt such relief. Hannah looked like a sweet young girl. I was shocked to see how the modesty issue played out among her young friends. Every single girl who had a divorced father wore a revealing two piece bikini. Every girl who had a Dad who still lived at home, wore a one piece. (Then there were my girls with their long-sleeve one pieces!) All of Hannah's friends at the apartment pool were under age 8! The link between a missing father and a young girl's need for male attention plays itself out so early.

However, my biggest surprise I had came from my husbands change in swim wear. In the past, my husband has Jon worn long swimming "shorts" and a kept this abdomen bare. This year, my husband added a white rash guard shirt.

Every time I saw my husband across the pool wearing his new swim shirt, I felt this rush of love. I knew how cute my husband's chest was under that modest shirt, but no one else could see him. By dressing extra modestly at the pool my husband sent me a little valentine that said "my body is for you alone."

What are your thoughts about modest dressing?
Have they changed as your daughters grew from babyhood into young adulthood?