“I would NEVER let my daughter wear a bikini. I don’t want perverted guys staring at her — and those suits are so immodest! How are they any different from wearing lingerie to the pool?”
Chances are, we’ve all heard some version of the above declaration before. And the pearl-clutcher behind those words, who so passionately opposes the fundamental notion of a two-piece swimsuit, isn’t always just some angry stranger. It’s the mom sitting by you at the pool, or the woman sifting through the swimsuit rack at Target, or the friend-of-friend in some mommy group you belong to.
With summer break now in full-swing, my Facebook newsfeed is chock full of commentary on the great debate over two-piece swimsuits — and I for one am over it.
Because newsflash, people: I’m THAT mom — the one who buys her daughters adorable little bikinis. And here’s why.
1. Let’s be honest: They’re practical.
You’re at the pool and your young-ish daughter has to go to the restroom, pronto. So you rush her to the bathroom. If she has a one-piece on, you’ll ask if she needs help, to which the answer is always yes. The soaking wet, super-tight (and getting tighter) suit clings to her body, and the wrestling match/shimmying dance begins.
Typically, there’s lots of grunting, pulling, and shrieks of “hurry up!” from the little one. But not from my kiddo — because she’s wearing the equivalent of swim underwear that she can easily and quickly pull on and off by herself, before heading back to her friends in the pool.
Piece of cake.
2. They’re not “inappropriate.”
This brings me to the next argument people often bring up when it comes to young girls in two-piece swimsuits: the matter of sexual predators. Here’s the thing — yes, there are plenty of bad guys (and girls) out there. Yes, they may lurking be in public places like the library, the park, and the community pool. But these aren’t most people. Most men at the pool are not on the prowl for a young girl to gawk at. They are dads, grandpas, and uncles who are there for the same reasons you are: to have a good time with the kids.
I’m not saying any of this to shrug off the very real threat of sexual predators. But I’m also not going to teach my daughters that they’re responsible for the thoughts and actions of other people. Perverts are perverts — period. Nothing my daughters can say or do or wear will change a sick person’s mind.
What I can do is teach them stranger awareness and safety precautions, like what to do if a stranger approaches them, how to react if someone speaks or acts inappropriately, and the fact that their bodies belong to them and no one has the right to touch them without permission.
3. I refuse to body shame my daughters.
Women and young girls are certainly shamed enough in society as it is. One glimpse at almost any magazine cover, and there it is: shaming. One commercial: shaming. One song: shaming. The message so often sent to women and girls is that we’re not good enough, and that we need a certain product or service to be prettier. Girls are taught early on that they simply cannot measure up to the perfect standard that is perpetually set before them in every imaginable space.
There’s far too little female empowerment and body pride going around than there should be, and as a parent, I’m my child’s No. 1 teacher. I take that job seriously. Therefore, if my daughter falls head-over-heels for a rainbow unicorn two-piece that changes color in the water and actually fits her body, so be it. I’d rather her do somersaults in the water in the swimsuit of her choosing than feel a sense of embarrassment because she’s forced to wear a suit that I’ve prudishly deemed acceptable.
4. I’m teaching my girls to wear what’s comfortable.
One-piece swimsuits leave little room for adjustment. They ride up and they slip down, especially on young girls who have yet to develop the curves to hold up many one-piece suits. Most one-piece suits are the exact opposite of modest, anyway: with large cutouts on the side, “cheeky” backsides, and V-necks dipping as low as the kid’s naval.
Yes, it’s all technically one piece, but it’s a piece of almost nothing but holes. The pool is the last place a child should be with an uncomfortable piece of clothing on. We’re there to flip, splash, jump, and float.
5. I wear a two-piece, too — and sometimes, my girls just want to be like Mommy.
Now before you think I’m pushing some sort of agenda, my choice to wear a two-piece is one of functionality. As a type 1 diabetic, I always have an insulin pump clipped to my clothing. I need to be able to access this life-giving device 24/7. The tubing that connects my pump to my body is on the shorter side; therefore, stretching the pump from a shoulder strap on a swimsuit down to my abdomen, where it’s inserted, isn’t realistic, increasing the chance for the tubing to be pulled or caught and then being ripped from my body. (You know what really isn’t cute or appropriate? Blood gushing into the pool.)
Wearing a two-piece means I can clip the pump to my swimsuit bottom and minimize any danger or inconvenience. So yes, my girls often see me wearing a two-piece and naturally want to do the same. Now obviously, some things are only for grown-ups (think: alcohol consumption), so not everything is mommy-see-child-do. But a two piece? I see it as a simple and sweet way for a daughter to emulate her mother.
So here’s the bottom line: I really don’t care what you put on your daughter. If you feel she’s more safe and modest in a one-piece, by all means stick to your standards. If a one-piece fits her body type, awesome. You do you, mama.
But what you shouldn’t bother wasting your breath and mental energy on is criticizing those of us who choose differently. Because while you’re sitting on the sidelines judging, my girls and I are in the pool splashing away and laughing. Won’t you join us and do the same?
At the end of the day, summer is about having a great time, enjoying the sun and water, and making memories with our kids. So let’s set aside the judgments and get back to what really matters.