Picture this. You’re in third grade and playing outside on the monkey bars during recess. You’re not thinking much of anything, you’re just being a kid. Then someone comes up to you and says “Why do you have such hairy legs?”
It was a moment that broke through what might’ve been left of my childlike innocence and I wasn’t even very old. Just a little third grader. Suddenly, I was looking at my legs and then looking at other people’s legs wondering why mine were so hairy and why you couldn’t seem to see any hair on their legs.
Shaving your legs was a fight at my house. My mom wouldn’t let me. She didn’t think I needed to do it and she felt that I was too young. I am quite certain that she felt she was doing what was best for me in the moment, but it didn’t stop me from trying to shave my legs in private. She always knew. If it wasn’t the smooth legs that gave it away, it was my amazing ability to nick my leg at every turn. I was self-conscious about it. All it took was that one person to rattle my confidence and draw attention to something that I didn’t even realize was an issue.
Is it an issue? No. At my much older age now, I can see personally that it likely wasn’t and I understand the lesson my mom was trying to teach me. People suck sometimes, and frankly, I shouldn’t care what they think. That didn’t stop me from caring when I was 8 though. The lesson my mother intended was completely lost on me then.
When my friends started wearing makeup in middle school and I wasn’t allowed until I was closer to 16 (so she said, but she caved on this a little bit earlier than her shaving rule), I felt like someone invited me to the party of teenage girl years but then swiftly locked the door and left me on the porch.
I will never forget the time I was at my friend Hillary’s sleepover birthday party and someone put eyeliner on me and I felt like three million dollars and strutted my stuff all over that place. And let us not forget that I wasn’t allowed to wear shorts until it hit 80 degrees. Why? Because that’s the rule my grandma made my mom follow and that’s the rule we were going to follow also. Five kids later, she gave up a little on that rule too. I see you, little brother, wearing those shorts. No one is a little bitter (okay, maybe).
It seems to be a hot topic in some mom groups I’m in. When is the best age to let your kid shave? Wear makeup? Should you? We see moms who are like “I don’t care, why is this even an issue? If she wants to shave, let her shave.” Then we have other moms that are digging their heels in, likely in well-meaning desperation to keep their little kids little in a world where it seems like everyone is growing up even quicker than before (I mean, I see some 13-year-olds that look older than I do).
If you’ve got a little girl (or boy really, for that matter), who is coming home and is asking to shave because they’re feeling self-conscious about their body, why not just let them?
There’s no magic age for this. When they become embarrassed about their own body, it might be a moment to reflect. Torturing (I say this because it does, in fact, sometimes feel like torture when you’re the kid) your kid in their younger years by not letting them shave in an attempt to teach them a lesson about other kids, or because that’s what you had to do as a kid, is maybe not getting your point across quite like you think it is.
It seems every time I see this outlined in a mommy group, it is followed up with: “I caught her shaving after I told her she wasn’t allowed to do so.” Well, lying and not following the rules isn’t great, so I’m certainly not advocating for it. If your normally well-behaved child is going behind your back to do this though, shouldn’t that alert you to how much it might be bothering her?
I am quite sure not every kid is the same as myself, so trust that I am not trying to overgeneralize, but aren’t we all just trying to raise strong, confident kids? Don’t you feel better about yourself when you’re clean and you’ve done the things that make you personally feel more like a human?
Do I wish my kid wouldn’t care about these things? Hell yes, I do. I hope both my daughters are strong and confident and if they want to rock some unshaved legs and unplucked eyebrows, you’re not going to see me taking them to get those suckers waxed. I want them to be confident in their own skin and if shaving their legs or wearing shorts before it hits 80 degrees is going to accomplish this, it seems like a small concession to be made in the long run for strength and empowerment.
There’s a time to dig our heels in, parents, but this just doesn’t really feel like one of them.