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Leg shaving request today, navel piercing tomorrow?

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In preparation for having children, I devoured books about how to take care of diaper rash. How to check for signs of dehydration. How to administer CPR on an infant. Once the children arrived and I felt like I’d mastered infancy, I sought out the books that discussed things like “how to raise confident girls” and “self-disciplined children.” Before I knew it, I was needing literature on “how to talk about sex with your adolescent.”

But here’s something that nobody tells you before you bring children into this world. It helps to learn “how to be fast on your feet.” And I don’t mean when working the dance floor. It doesn’t matter if I’m dealing with a child, a customer, or that rude lady waiting behind me at the checkout counter, I’m always three days late with a quick answer that puts a stop to the conversation that needs to be stopped. And, 99 percent of the time, three days is just too long. I have yet to meet the person who appreciates the phone call that starts with, “And this is what I MEANT to say to you three days ago!”

My ten-year-old daughter came home from school last week and asked me if it would be OK for her to start shaving her legs. I simply said NO. And maybe that should have been the end of it. But when she asked why, it would have been nice if I had prepared a succinct answer that went,”Because *fill in the blank here with a great parable, metaphor, or analogy* The End. “But I wasn’t ready. In my defense, I didn’t think the shaving question was going to happen for, like, another three YEARS. And so, like so many other times, she caught me unaware and the best answer I could come up with was, “Because I said so.”

Don’t get me wrong. I think “Because I said so” is an EXCELLENT answer sometimes. Like when she looks over at me and goes, “Aww, come on. Why do I have to put it back on Oprah?” “Hmmm…. Let me think here a minute. Because I said so!” But the shaving thing. This was kind of important. I felt like she deserved a better answer.

So I gave it the usual three days and here’s what I came up with — There isn’t a PRACTICAL reason why it is a good idea. But there are several IMPRACTICAL reasons why it’s a bad one. Sure, her ten-year-old legs would look less hairy. But, practically speaking, there’s nothing WRONG with the hair being there. There is no medical reason for the hair to be gone. There is no school that she’s trying to get into which requires hairless legs. I haven’t come across any new studies that say shaving legs increases intelligence or improves soccer skills in young girls. From what I can tell, it doesn’t do anything for compassion or world peace, either.

ON THE OTHER HAND, having a ten-year-old shave will cost me more money in razors and band-aids, neither of which is cheap. It will also increase shower time, thereby making my water bill slightly higher. Not to mention all the complaining of her new scabs and scars that I’ll have to put up with in the process. But what REALLY clenched the deal was letting her run her hand across the length of my leg. I hadn’t shaved my legs in the three days it took for me to think on this whole shaving thing. “And this here? This is what happens when you get lazy about shaving,” I said. You would have thought she’d just been forced to pet the back of a cootie-infested porcupine by the way she recoiled.

I haven’t heard another word about it since. Still, it would have been nice if I’d had an answer readily prepared in the beginning. I suppose this means I’ve got to start thinking on my answers for why she can’t date or drive or pluck her eyebrows yet.

Several of her classmates are donning smooth legs already. Call me crazy, but I think you need to bring in a steady paycheck to start shaving. So what’s the general consensus out there on girls and shaving? Am I being too harsh?

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Comments
  • comment avatar lynette April 30, 2008

    Isn’t it funny there is a How To book for nearly every stage in infancy but once they are older, we are left to fend for ourselves?

    I don’t think you were overreacting. There is plenty of time for her to suff through leg shaving in the future!

  • comment avatar Melissa Howell April 30, 2008

    When I asked my mom if I could shave my legs I think I was 11 or 12. She told my dad, and he said, “Melissa needs to shave her legs like she needs to shave her big toe!” Apparently he had never really looked at my big toe….

  • comment avatar Eva April 30, 2008

    I personally don’t believe in a specific age for shaving legs. My first daughter had minimal hair so she didn’t shave well into junior high years. Daughter #2 was a mini-Sasquatch and had dark, thick hair even on her legs. it was an embarrassment for her to go to gym class or wear shorts because of it so she started shaving around 10!

  • comment avatar Kari April 30, 2008

    This is a tough subject. I am so resistant for my girls to grow up too quickly. At the same time, I want them to be accepted by their peers. In the end, I just try to judge the situation by if this REALLY matters in the long run. Most of the time it doesn’t!

  • comment avatar Catherine Dix April 30, 2008

    Eva, you make a good point. I’m sure I wouldn’t be such a hard-a$$ if my kid was hairier than the average 10-year-old. As it stands, I have to pull out a magnifying glass to get a better view of her “problem.”

    Such great input here. I wish I could dream up my mom issues before they happen and make decisions based on some sort of mile-high-mommy consensus. Thank you, wonderful commenters!

  • comment avatar Lizzy April 30, 2008

    I do dream up these mom issues before they happen (just like I used to dream up all the things mean boys could say at me in school before they happened), I like to be prepared. But even I am not ready for my almost 10 year old to ask to shave.

    My mom let me start shaving at 12, and I asked to because the girls in gym were making fun of me. I quickly learned that I’d rather wear long pants in gym than butcher myself so often.

  • comment avatar Joanne May 1, 2008

    I have 4 girls and pretty much let them decide when it needed to be done. For all of them, it happened in the spring of 5th or 6th grade. You know, field day is coming when most everyone will don a pair of shorts. The girls wearing pants in the sweltering heat (unless it is particularly cold) are the ones embarrassed because they have hairy legs and have been teased.

    It’s a small way to help them feel like they are fitting in with their peers. It minimizes bigger traumas as they go into the junior high and teen years. There is plenty of time for them to stand up to their peers on issues that are important to them. Not shaving shouldn’t have to be one they need to defend themselves against when it isn’t usually something they want to defend.

    Fourth grade or older? I’d let my daughter shave.
    http://www.live4truth13.blogspot.com/

  • comment avatar Laura May 1, 2008

    I knew what you were going to say, before I clicked on the “Read More” link – I just knew it!!

    “Because I said so..” is what my kids here A LOT in this house. I’m the grownup, I make the decisions, The End.

    I “let” my daughter start shaving a little over a year ago. When I say “let” I really mean “forced,” though! I decided she could be hairy until she started sprouting a few little hairs on her armpits, and it was like flipping a switch in her body: instant B.O!! We couldn’t deal with that, so off we went to Target, to procure a razor. FYI, those Intuition ones, with the built in soap thingy, don’t seem to nick her up too much. Thumbs up!

    LaLaGirl – Twinfinite Chaos

  • comment avatar RubiaLala May 1, 2008

    I think I was 12 or 13 before I started shaving. I don’t think my mom wanted me to do it, but I had REALLY hairy legs and I was getting teased pretty good by that point.

    I don’t have a girl, and my boy is nowhere near that age so I don’t even know about girls that age. I think whatever the parents decide is what is reasonable.

  • comment avatar People Power Granny May 6, 2008

    Tonight I retell a story that my mother passed on to me from her grandmother. The story connects generation to generation like nothing else I know. Read the story at peoplepowergranny.blogspot.com, vote in my poll, and then tell us the story that connected you with the older people in your life.

  • comment avatar Jaime March 30, 2011

    I’m just glad I’m not dealing with that yet, yikes!

  • comment avatar Melissa Caddell March 30, 2011

    Where was this article a year ago!! As it was, I put the question to my girlfriends on Facebook when my just-turned-11-year-old asked. It came down to the fact that she didn’t want to wear shorts because she felt uncomfortable. And truth be told, the girl did have some hairy looking legs.

    Luckily, my MIL had an electric razor she offered up as I was NOT going to deal with the trauma of blades. Otherwise, she’d end up like me, when I shaved my legs with a BRAND NEW razor I stole from my mom and promptly sliced up the front of my leg. I still have the scar. And I got to go to 5th grade field day wearing pants and 4 bandaids. 🙂

  • comment avatar Mary March 12, 2015

    First of all, I’m glad I have sons! Lol! Secondly, I got my period at 11 so I also started shaving at 11. It wasn’t an issue. But if you’re really too cheap to buy razors and bandaids, wait til you need to buy tampons and pads, those aren’t cheap either! Are you going to tell her she can’t have her period because it’s too expensive?
    Did you ever consider that she’s getting made fun of for it at school? Or she feels self conscious? Cut the cord. Let her grow up a little bit.
    Plus, if she’s like most women, she will realize what a pain in the butt it is to shave and she’ll stop doing it frequently

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