Inside His Head: Mom and dad disagree about 12-year-old daughter’s swimsuit

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Dear Inside His Head,

I took my 12-year-old daughter swimsuit shopping today and she modeled it for her dad when he got home from work (she really loves it). My husband later told me that he doesn’t think the swimsuit is “appropriate” and that it’s too revealing for her to wear in public. He wants us to take it back, but I don’t want to do that. She feels good in it and I don’t think it looks bad. Should he have veto power? I obviously thought it was OK or I wouldn’t have bought it.

MICHAEL: Fun times. I’ve got to say that in most cases I’m going to default to Mom’s view on things like this.

Unless she’s purposely trying to draw attention to her body, I think you have some pretty good footing to stand on. After all, you were once a 12-year-old girl.  I don’t know how “mature” your daughter is at 12 so that couldn’t definitely play a part in his viewpoint.

Keep in mind that he’s looking at this from the viewpoint of a teenage boy so be considerate of his opinion. I think a lot of this is him worrying about her and how she’s growing up.  He’s likely concerned about all the things she has to go through in her teen years and would prefer to hold that off as long as possible.

I think what you two should probably do is tell her that you’ve talked about it and while you both have different opinions that she can keep the suit, but take the opportunity to discuss how boys might see her and let her know that there are appropriate ways to draw attention to yourself. Showing your body off as a 12 year old is not one of them.

Please avoid making her ashamed of her body though. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s part of who we are and she’s got to live with it for a long time. Make that an enjoyable time.

GRAY: Men can be strange, can’t we? We’re generally fairly rational until it comes to sports and when our daughters start acting or looking grown up.

So the short answer to your question is no, he shouldn’t have veto power over a swimsuit. But it’s no surprise that a daddy doesn’t want his daughter to grow up. No doubt he’s remembering what boys are like when they see attractive girls in swimsuits, and the reality is it’s not the swimsuit (or makeup, or clothing, etc) that’s the issue.

For a lot of men I think issues arise when their daughters stop thinking daddy hung the moon and give their affection to their teenage sweetheart – or at least look as though they’re playing the part. And even though the swimsuit may look reasonable to you and your daughter it’s entirely possible he believes it’s no more concealing than pieces of spaghetti.

I accept that my daughter wears a bikini and that in a few years she’ll be old enough I too will worry when she’s swimming in mixed company. But I will trust my daughter and wife to have sense in picking out what’s acceptable while I sit back and wonder if we should move to Canada, where the swimming season isn’t nearly so long.

Hopefully your husband will accept, as I have, that the problem isn’t the swimsuit, but a condition called “being a daddy” – a perfectly normal affliction many of us suffer from.

MAVERICK: My first response is, if roles were reversed and you thought the bathing suit was inappropriate, would you want him to overrule you and allow your daughter to wear it?

I think your husband — assuming he’s not a nut or total jerk, and for a raft of other reasons I won’t go into here — should have veto power. Just like you should in a similar situation where roles were reversed.

But you think he’s not being reasonable with the veto. You likely are right. So, in a calm and rational way, see what he objects to about the suit.

In reality, your husband thinks he’s taking care of his daughter by vetoing the suit. He likely is overreacting a bit. You clearly don’t think the suit is inappropriate. Tell him so in a calm way.

Ask him WHY he doesn’t like the suit and listen to his answer with an open mind. Remember, he loves your daughter too. Likely he’s being way too overprotective, but maybe his instincts are right, so hear him out.

Point out your daughter feels confident in the suit and that you agree that it’s a good choice for her. Be calm, make your points logically, and he’ll likely will come around.

Just remember he’s likely vetoing the suit out of an abundance of caution. Is that concern maybe old fashion and a bit misplaced? Likely so. But better a conversation with dad who is concerned than a father who just rubber stamps anything you do, or your daughter does, out of apathy, boredom or distraction.

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