Bikini, Training Bras, and Training Mom

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“I want to give you a hug,” my youngest daughter offered me.

I was wiping my tears away on my hands. I had no tissue in my purse.

My kids and I were sitting in Culver’s restaurant having a late lunch. We had left the mall with new bras for both of them and a bikini for my oldest.

We had all enjoyed a pandemic year of no bras (or sports bras only). But now, with school approaching, my kids needed “real” bras. I could not pick out those items for them.

My nine-year-old will now be wearing a bra, her first one. My 13-year-old went up in size and needed an official fitting.

I held it together the whole time my kids and I were shopping. Now I was deep in thought as I sat across the table from them. Memories of them as young girls played through my head. As I shoveled French fries into my mouth, I lost it.

My girls are growing up, and I can’t stop time.

I do not wish to pause it permanently, but I wasn’t expecting to feel so many emotions after our excursion. My kids stared at me with concern as I cried, and they waited for milkshakes.

An hour earlier, we were laughing. At first, my girls felt awkward about the bra shopping experience. I helped my oldest pick out a few options, but they did not work. She didn’t have the right fit, so a female store clerk measured her. With help, my daughter found a comfortable one.

As my teen stood there in the dressing room, I noticed a transformation in her and me. She looked more secure and confident. I felt smaller and more awkward.

I purchased every option in her size, in that particular style that was available. (Good bras are not cheap!)

Then together, we walked over to the little girls’ section to look for my tween her first training bra. My youngest daughter dreaded it. She is more of a free spirit, not one for constriction.

Thankfully for us, the training bra section was empty, and we could browse freely. My tween poked fingers at the different options until she found what felt comfortable.

“You should try these on now,” I coaxed. “We aren’t sure what will feel best and what size you need. Do you want me to go in there to help you, or do you want your big sister to help you?”

She uttered no words but pointed at her big sister. Together they went inside the dressing room stall. Little sister had just seen big sister be brave about her bra fitting experience, after all.

I could hear them laughing and fumbling around together in the dressing stall. A few minutes later, my girls called me inside. There stood my tween in her training bra. She looked more grown than I was used to seeing. I blinked and concentrated intensely on how she looked. I focused on her comfort level instead of my conflicting emotions on the inside.

“How does it feel?” I asked her.

“More comfortable than I thought it would be,” she replied. She, too, looked transformed-older and surer of herself. Again, I felt smaller.

“That’s good,” I smiled.

When my tween tried to take the bra off, she had trouble. It had no clips in the back but was a pull-over, racerback style. We laughed as it took all three of us to remove it.

We walked to the register. Like I had done with my oldest, I purchased every option available in that style and size my youngest daughter liked.

I thought our shopping was over, but then my teenager asked to look at bathing suits, bikinis since she said, “all my friends have them except me.”

So, she browsed the racks, and she went into the dressing room with three options. She picked one that she liked. It did look great on her but showed more skin than I am used to seeing. Still, it was appropriate and covered where it should.

I wore a similar bikini at her age. I remember how it felt freeing and a bit grown up.

Yet, that did not prepare me to see my baby looking like a model or my other baby fitting into her first bra.

It stopped my breath.

That brings us back to the scene of me crying inside Culver’s restaurant. I explain to my kids why I’m crying.

“It will be OK,” said my teenager.

“I’ll always be your little girl even if I’m wearing a bra now,” said my tween.

I’m in training too. Like bras are meant to do, I support and comfort my kids. Then in certain moments, when I least expect it, they do the same for me.

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Mandy Fernandez has lived in Pensacola since 2009. She's originally from southeast Louisiana and has also lived in Ohio and Alabama before finding a home in this region. Mandy is the mom of two daughters (ages 14 and 9) and has been married for 19 years. She is vice president of the West Florida Literary Federation in northwest Florida and has served on the Emerald Coast Review board, a bi-annual publication that showcases regional artists and writers of Gulf Coast Alabama and Florida. Mandy is an award-winning essayist and short story writer. She is also the author of Kazoo Makes the Team, the beloved children's book about the Pensacola Blue Wahoos baseball team mascot, Kazoo. Learn more about her at www.writtenbymandy.com.

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