Why My Daughter Wears Swim Trunks

by Rachel Garlinghouse
Originally Published: 
Courtesy of Rachel Garlinghouse

It was another hot summer day, and my daughter rushed out of her room, ready to head to the pool.

“Where is your swimsuit?” I asked her, while helping her older sister adjust her suit straps.

“I don’t want to wear it!” she proclaimed, arms folded in front of her chest. “I want swim trunks!”

My middle daughter loves all things superhero. Her favorite colors are black, blue, and red. She plays the drums and basketball. And don’t you dare ask her which animated princess is her favorite.

Though some parents complain how picky their kids are when it comes to clothing, I’m thankful. My daughter is predictable. She wears superhero or basketball shirts, gray jog pants or workout shorts, and sneakers from the boys’ department.

She knows exactly what she wants, who she is, and what she’s comfortable in.

Courtesy of Rachel Garlinghouse

The first time she expressed interest in swim trunks, we were at an outlet store swimsuit shopping for her older sister. As my oldest was trying to choose between sparkly pink and purple one-piece swimsuits, my middle daughter’s eyes gravitated toward the swim sets across the aisle.

You know, the aisle. The one you’ll find in most stores that separates clothing designed for boys and clothing designed for girls.

The color contrast is stark. The boys’ department features a lot of dark-colored or neon clothing with themes of pirates, superheroes, and sports. The girls’ department is a rainbow of colors, but most prominently features shades of pink. The clothing is decorated with unicorns, gymnastics, cheerleading, rainbows, and cuddly animals.

I have four kids, and each one is very different. I have no issue with a kid liking something stereotypical. But I also don’t take issue with a child preferring something from the other side of the aisle.

My daughter tugged on my hand, pulling me toward a shark-themed short-sleeved swim top and matching turquoise and navy shark swim trunks. “Wow,” I exclaimed. “How cool are these?”

Her eyes lit up, and we began sifting through the rack, trying to find her size.

“Oh,” gushed a store employee, approaching us. “You don’t want those.” She was looking directly at my daughter. “The girls’ swimsuits are over here,” and she gestured toward the display of suits where my oldest was standing.

“We’re fine,” I curtly responded.

You see, all of my daughter’s friends are boys. Just last year, I got a call from the school because my daughter had cut her cheek going too quickly down a spiral slide during a game of tag with a group of her male peers. The swim trunk conversation arose after we’d gone swimming with her cousins, all of whom are boys. She told me, point blank, she wanted swim trunks.

And as a woman, I totally get it. Let’s talk about swimsuits made for females.

First, I think you need a freaking engineering degree to figure out how to put the damn thing on. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve been caught up in a suit like a cat in a ball of yarn, calling on my husband for help to straighten the suit out so I can get my curves into the places they’re supposed to go. Who decided that putting on a swimsuit needed to be a team event?

Second, women’s swimsuits have an overwhelming amount of styles. Ruching. Cut-outs. Straps. Fringe. Sequins. High-cut. Low-cut. Strapless or one thousand straps. These styles trickle down to the juniors’ department and the big girls’ department, and into the toddler department.

Swim trunks are far less cumbersome or complicated than many swimsuits marketed to girls. There’s no tucking parts in or pulling fabric out of body crevices.

And we need to talk about skin protection. It’s important to liberally apply sunblock to our kids and to do so often. What they wear into the pool can help protect skin, too. Swim trunks and a swim shirt are far more protective than an itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny-yellow-polka-dot-bikini. (Sorry, I just had to throw that in here.)

Swim trunks just make so much sense for kids like my daughter.

Yes, some people are uncomfortable with our decision to let our daughter wear swim trunks. Why? I don’t know. I’m guessing they’re the same people who won’t let their sons play with dolls or paint their toenails.

A few people in public places have mistakenly referred to my daughter as a boy, and when she or I quickly correct them, they say, “Well, she is wearing swim trunks…”

Their opinions aren’t our problem.

The majority has been supportive, especially family and friends who know my daughter and her style. She’s so confident and enjoys being herself. Isn’t that what parents yearn for in their kids? For them to be comfortable in their own skin? To love who they are, be proud of their talents, and enjoy life?

Ultimately, all kids just want to get in the water and have fun. They’re not over-analyzing societal norms. It’s the adults who have the problems. And we need to stop pushing our insecurities or preconceived notions on our kids.

In essence, we all just need to get in the damn pool — because, summer.

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