The Bikini Question

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little-girl-in-bikini

“Can I get a bikini?”

I looked over at my seven-year-old, her eyes crinkled with a smile.

Before I could say anything she repeated her request.

“Can I get a bikini?”

My mind ran ahead of me.

A bikini. A real two-piece suit.

Not a standard tankini.

She had one last summer, but she’s grown a lot since then.

She’s changed.

As her mother, I worry about so many things. I worry that she’ll feel left out. I worry that she’ll feel afraid. I worry that she’ll feel made fun of.

I worry that she’ll grow up to be like me.

I’m not a small mama. I never have been. I worry that my daughter will face the issues with weight I’ve faced my entire life.

I worry she’ll never see a bikini past the age of 10 – if that – and I worry that someone will say she shouldn’t be wearing one now.

So I look at her and tell her we can bring a few different suits into the dressing room. I tell her we can try them on and see how they fit.

I gently steer her to a different bikini. One with more coverage.

She stalls. Stands her ground. Yes. I know. I know I’m the mom. I know I am the one who spends the money. I am the one who makes the final decision. But I like to give her a choice. A say of some sort.

She’s only seven. At seven there are so few choices that they’re allowed to make. Shouldn’t I permit her this one? This one that won’t hurt anyone? This one that would make her happy?

She needs a few suits for this summer. I bought her two online and they’re both all sorts of weird and wrong. She tries a few tankinis on and they look adorable on her. But I know what she wants. She wants that bikini. The one with the frills and the tiny pieces of fabric. She wants the colors that show against the black of the suit. She wants to look a little bit grown-up and thinks that a bikini will do that. She also wants to be comfortable. Can I blame her? Should I deter her?

From the comfort level of fewer constraints? Less fabric against her skin? Who am I to say no?

So – I shift into a new mindset – and I buy her the bikini.

And a few weeks later – as I watch her jump off the dock and into the water I notice something. A few things.

First, this suit fits her better than any other.

And second, my daughter, my baby girl? Has the CONFIDENCE to wear it. To pull it off. And not give a damn what anyone thinks.

And I have the confidence to let her.

Related post: Getting In

Comments

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  1. 1

    emily anderson says

    I feel the same way as this article! And although her father doesn’t agree – she has more confidence than I ever could. To see her smile and happy is all I ever wanted as a mother;-)

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  2. 3

    Kylie says

    I wonder about this subject too. Not because of the confidence issue really, because my dd is a string bean and I don’t think she will ever have to worry about that. But because my rule is no 2 pieces on babies. But when do I let her wear one? Elementary school? High school when she has boobs and will be wanting boys to look at her? Or never? I guess time will tell.

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    • 4

      Evonne says

      I’m not a fan of bikinis for little girls but I did break down and get a tankini for my five year old because the one piece was just way too big of an issue when she was going to the bathroom. Once she was potty trained she didn’t want to have me help her in the bathroom anymore and now that she’s five she definitely doesn’t want my help. The tankini has to cover a good majority of her body though and she wears a cover up when not in the pool. I don’t know if it’s really that big of a deal for kids to wear bikinis but I think that the whole point of a bikini is to be/look sexy and my kid doesn’t need to do that.

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    • 5

      Nicole says

      I’ve always let my daughter where a two piece. For a while the toilet was a pretty new concept to her and she always waited until the last possible minute to go. It’s such a pain in the ass to get a one piece (especially a wet one) off in a timely manner.

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    • 6

      Kady says

      Will you “let” her wear a bikini in high school? She might very well wear one if she wants to, at least when you aren’t around.
      I too find the sexualization of young girls disturbing, but I think that prohibiting girls from wearing bikinis — and requiring them to wear cover ups out of the water! — only makes an issue out if their bodies.
      Bikinis are more comfortable, more convenient, and cooler than one-pieces — if I had a daughter who wanted one, I wouldn’t say no.

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  3. 7

    Mama K says

    For me, it’s not about the confidence, it’s about what I, the parent, deem appropriate. I think bikinis unneccessarily sexualize children. That’s just me. There is no good reason that a baby or child needs to look “sexy” and that’s what bikinis are DESIGNED to do. So I let my 5 yr old wear one now, and then when she’s 12 and 13 and looks way too sexy, what do I tell her then? That her curves are now something to hide? To be ashamed of? I would rather set the rules now for the 5 yr old then argue with a pre-teen in a few years. There will be plenty of time for bikinis and dip-dyed hair, earrings and mini skirts. That time is not at five years old, in my opinion.

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    • 8

      k's momma says

      I completely agree! My issue comes from America wanting to make younger and younger girls sexy and then complaining about teen pregnancy. Let’s get real. If we don’t teach our little girls to dress in a sexual manner (bikinis, crop tops, etc.) at a young age, they will be less inclined to act sexual at a young age. Obviously I know that how girls dress is not the ONLY thing contributing to teen pregnancy, but I believe it plays a big role.

      I didn’t have a 2 piece until I was 15 and turned out perfectly fine and have plenty of self-confidence. My daughter will not have a 2 piece until her father and I decide she is ready.

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      • 9

        Me says

        ***Off-topic***
        I’m glad you mentioned that you know it’s not girls dressing in a sexual manner that is “the only thing” contributing to teen pregnancy, because it’s usually not the girls dressing sexy, that are getting pregnant.
        It’s the ones you never expected it to happen to.
        Although I’ve always preferred my girls to be covered up more, I know it’s not what they are wearing that kept them from being teen parents.

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      • 10

        SBmama says

        K’s mama I dont understand letting a 15 year old where a bikini, but not a little girl. You whole point was not about sexulizing girls. So why would you let you teeneager do it? at the height of hormones seems even more a time to cover up.

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      • 11

        says

        It’s sometimes hard to separate out what unfortunate things may have happened to us (and others) as young girls and the oversexualization that seems to occur with girl-bikinis with the strength, confidence, boundaries and hopefully good parenting that our daughters may possess! I’m erring on the no bikini side though…

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    • 12

      Meredith says

      Meh. America is just weird about bodies and bathing suits. Come to European beaches in the summer and many of the girls and women are topless. And it’s not about being sexy. It’s because breasts and nipples aren’t shameful. And topless girls- even when they are developing breast buds? Not considered taboo or sexualized in the least. Body pride is nothing to be ashamed of anyway. There are a lot of other things to get worked up about in the world and sorry, bikinis just aren’t on my list.

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    • 14

      Crystal says

      Completely agree.

      I’m also trying to teach my daughter that confidence doesn’t come from what you wear on the outside (or don’t wear). It’s from the inside. A confident girl can rock a potato sack, but the girl who lacks self awareness and confidence may think she needs to look a certain way to feel a certain way.

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    • 15

      Sharon says

      Thinking that a child in a bikini is unneccessarily sexualizing children is crazy! Stop thinking that way! Just because a parent puts their a daughter in a cute 2 piece bathing suit does not mean they are trying to make their child ‘sexy!’

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    • 16

      Heather Scott-Penselin says

      1) I don’t think bikinis are the problem it is people’s filthy minds.
      2) I find one piece swimsuits disgusting. You have to strip naked to go to the bathroom and hold the swimsuit off the floor/ground. Whereas with a 2 piece you only have the pull down the bottoms and like underwear you can keep them off the floor with your legs without having to hold them.

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      • 17

        says

        Well, years of ballet taught me to just move the fabric in the crotch area to the side…bottom snaps are not too comfortable, to say the least. Doesn’t work for larger jobs, but does the trick for those “urgent” moments.

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  4. 18

    Also a clinical social worker says

    Oh, Good God. It’s a bikini not a trip to Europe! Teach her how to feel comfortable to be in her own skin! It’s not like she’s 13 needing the confidence!

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    • 19

      luckyduck says

      Oh, I totally agree… if confidence includes feeling good about how you look, keep looking until you find something that isn’t simulataneously over-sexulized. However, I think that girls deserve to be taught to derive more of their self-confidence from what they can *do* and who they *are* not what they look like.

      My mom was pretty firm that I couldn’t have a two piece until I could buy one for myself (16). I remember regretting my first one because I ended up sitting out a lot (with a lot of the other similarly clad girls) because the risk of losing tops and/or bottoms at the river jumping off the bluffs or even in a swift current were pretty high. I still grit my teeth over letting my vanity and attempts to look cool (sexy) keep me from doing fun things.

      I continued to try two-pieces for several years but, looking back through the pictures, the one-piece Speedo mom bought when I was 15 kept resurfacing. I know I wore it when I *did* things (rafting, boating, swimming with kids I was babysitting) because I didn’t have to worry about indecent exposure.

      So, when shopping for clothing, particularly swimsuits, with my daughter, I focus on whether she’ll feel comfortable doing what she wants to do in whatever we’re shopping for and that’s meant years of Speedos, TYR, and Nike (they fit reliably and stand up to abuse).

      And I tell my daughter through all of this that I would rather she spend her time and energy doing cool things, having cool experiences, becoming a genuinely cool/interesting/kind person than spending time and energy looking cool.

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      • 20

        says

        This may not be a trip to Europe, but the thing is, it’s more important. It’s about choice, it’s about confidence. I only wore a bikini during my young years, I no longer have the confidence. applaud the author for giving this a lot of thought. Thank you for respecting your daughter enough to do so.

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    • 22

      Sarah says

      I was one of those that said my girls wouldn’t have bikinis when they were little… Then when my oldest was about 1, I realized how hard it was to change a baby in a wet one piece… Both my girls have owned mainly two pieces since, tankinis and bikinis. My oldest, now 10, is actually wearing a tank top under a tankini and shorts. My youngest (7) took the skirt off her bikini and requested her one piece be made into a bikini, which my mom did for her. Whatever, they’re comfortable and bathroom breaks are way faster, that’s all I care about.

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    • 24

      says

      Amanda, I agree. I’d say that goes for any kid clothes… like a little girl can wear wedge shoes if she wants, but they need to be little-girl style. There might be something similar that applies to boys, but can’t think of much… there’s just not as much variety in boys clothes to make it an issue.

      I’ll also say that I don’t think there’s a problem with letting a girl wear a bikini or two-piece whens she’s younger and then re-addressing the appropriateness of it each year… if she ends up not growing up to have the figure for a bikini, she’ll decide on her own to modify her swimsuit choices (like I did). And whether it was a bikini or a low-cut top or whatever, when I started growing my piddly little boobs, my mom started talking to me about modesty (read, not shame, but modesty). Modesty is a good lesson to teach boys AND girls, in my opinion. You’re teaching them early on to make conscious decisions about who gets to see what.

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      • 25

        mama-san says

        “if she ends up not growing up to have the figure for a bikini, she’ll decide on her own to modify her swimsuit choices ”

        yick. you mean, if society has shamed her into thinking she needs to hide her body, ’cause it’s not the shape *you* think it ought to be? they should really post a “bikini body police” at every store. ya know, to make sure the “wrong” people aren’t allowed to have any. you might want to revisit the difference between shame & modesty…

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    • 27

      Rachel says

      Same!! Although I do have a step daughter, I do not make the decisions on this. Her father does, and he allows her to choose her swim wear. She is beautiful at 10, with tons of confidence. She picked out two this summer, a one piece, and a tankini. I’m not sure what would have happened if she chose a bikini, but I am thankful we didn’t have to cross that bridge :)

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    • 29

      Kristen inDallas says

      Me neither. And I don’t care how much skin is showing or not… but bikinis are just plain dumb. Yes – I’d like a hamburger without meat and a swim suit I can’t swim in please. I’d rather let a 7 yr. old (or any girl for that matter) wear board shorts and topless (if it were allowed) than a bikini. It all boils down to this, if I’m being chased by a shark my odds decrease with the following swimwear choices: Tyr/Speedo Competitive suit > Matronly one-peice > butt naked > regular clothes > bikini. (some people might do better with the naked, I’m to the age where my natural drag is improved by even semi-loose options)

      If my daughter wanted to buy a skrimpy piece of fabric to go tanning in, fine, I guess. (But ask me whether I’d let a 7-year old go tanning) But any kid of mine, male or female, who wants to engage in physical activity that carries with it even a mild risk of injury/death. That kid has to wear the appropriate gear. Would I let my 4-year-old son wear flip-flops to ride his bike? No I wouldn’t. That’s stupid. So is this.

      Also – I’m a firm believer that you can teach a girl not to be ashamed of her body without teaching her that she has to make ridiculous choices to prove that she isn’t.

      Q- Guess what’s the only thing more embarrassing for a pre-teen than how she looks in a swimsuit?
      A-being given the red (aka poor swimmer/baby) wristband at the Y because she can’t swim one lap without having to stop and adjust her suit every couple of strokes. (Former lifegaurd – Seen this with mine own eyes way to many times to be funny anymore)

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  5. 30

    says

    2 pieces are ok, but not those little triangles that pass for a suit. My kiddo wore 2 pieces for a while, but more like the tankinis… Then she got older and a bit more self-conscious, and chose for herself to go to a one-piece, and I was perfectly ok with that.

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  6. 31

    says

    I have always preferred two pieces. My kids have one and two pieces in their wardrobes but I always went for a two piece while they were still in diapers and toilet training. Makes the on and off of a wet suit much simpler. Anyone who looks at a little kid and is sexually excited would likely feel the same regardless of attire.

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    • 36

      JaelynRae says

      Clarice,

      Do you not have a say in your daughter’s wardrobe? Or is it just easier to blame dad? Sorry, I don’t mean to be negative, it just struck me as a very odd comment. My hubby mostly leaves wardrobe choices to me, however if we did happen to disagree, we would discuss it and find a way to compromise (i.e. a more covered up tankini, or wearing a 2-piece with a swim skirt/shorts over). There are no dictators in our house.

      On a practical note, 2 piece swimsuits for girls are just plain practical. If they have to go to the bathroom it is less of a struggle to get in an out of just bottoms. They have so many 2-piece options now that they are “2-piece” in only the most technical sense as the hemlines of the top/bottom meet. I would much rather see a girl in a well fitting 2-piece, than see her in an ill-fitting 1-piece (which NEVER fit correctly) that ends up riding up in uncomfy places when they stretch/move.

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  7. 42

    says

    If my daughter wants one I let her get it. She always has a tankini or 1 piece as well. I used to buy them for her when she was younger all the time(she’s 10 now)! I think its cute to have little girls in bikinis as long as they are appropriately covered.

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  8. 44

    says

    I’m not sure. I wouldn’t buy one if I were shopping for a kid, but I might allow my kid to have one if they want one. I wasn’t allowed a bikini until I purchased it myself the summer before high school.

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