I’m faced with a disturbing new fact that I cannot ignore. My oldest daughter wants to shave her legs. She is 9 and a half.
More than once this summer, and quite frequently over the past couple weeks, she has pointed out to me how she has no visible hair on her thighs, but look! Dark hair starting at her knees. She is vexed by the fact that the part of her legs covered up by shorts should appear so smooth and hairless, while the part that’s always showing seems to have grown a soul patch. I’m mystified by how someone so gorgeously golden brown from the sun has leg hair that won’t go blonde like her arm hair has.
She’s embarrassed about it.
So I’m thinking about letting her shave her legs.
Although I rarely follow my mother’s advice (in fact, I’ve made a career out of doing the exact opposite of almost anything she says), I had to call her on this one. How old was I when I shaved my legs? Why did she let me? What should I do?
Her advice was this: Let her do it. Make a mother-daughter moment out of it and show her what to do. Because if she’s embarrassed about it then it’s a big deal to her and you should respect that. Plus, she probably won’t need to do it more than once a week AND it’s entirely possible she’ll do it once and forget about the whole thing for a while. Also, be sure to get her younger sisters occupied so that they aren’t in the bathroom squealing about “what are you DOING?” and “when can I do that?!”
This seems like sound advice. This daughter has a tendency to dwell on things that upset her. She’s also getting to an age where appearance is starting to become a bigger deal. I don’t know if anyone has commented on her leg hair – it seems likely to me that no one has noticed. But then again, she’s old enough that I’m not privy to all of her conversations with friends. For all I know, they’ve formed an anti-leg-hair cabal and are campaigning against all us mothers at once to let them shave.
If I’m being totally honest, there’s one other thing motivating me – the chance to be a hero to my daughter for a minute. To not be the person I usually am, who isn’t a great listener, constantly interrupts my children when they’re speaking, and tells them they can’t wear high heels until they’re 16 or leave the house with colored lip gloss on and that’s just the way it is. Instead I feel like this is a chance to truly listen to my daughter, talk about what this means to her and why she wants to do it, then spend a little time together showing her what to do. I want her to truly feel that I care and understand, and that sometimes I can bend on things that are not difficult or expensive or dangerous or totally inappropriate, yet are very important to her.
Secretly I’m looking forward to this moment, and secretly it also terrifies me. This summer my oldest has been at a crossroads between childhood and tweendom. One minute she is playing a game on her iPod and styling her hair, the next minute she wants to me snuggle in bed with her and make sure she has her purple bunny. She is growing up and yet not ready to grow up all at the same time. I want to hold on to her and let her grow, but not too fast. I hope she stays at this crossroads a little longer so that I can guide her through it whenever possible.
Our journey begins tonight.