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Why I Shaved My 7-Year-Old's Arms

Photograph by Getty Images

At what age do you think it's OK for little girls to remove the hair from their legs, arms or face? My 7-year-old asked me to shave her arms and I did. The hair on her arms was bothering her — enough that she brought it up on several occasions. The she asked, point blank, "Mami, can you take the hair off of my arms? Please." I could hear the desperation and defeat in her voice.

It broke my heart to know that she was worrying about this already. I tried to change the conversation and I thought she had forgotten about it, but a day later, she asked me again. This time the desperation in her voice was palpable.

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I looked into her little-girl face and asked her, "Why do you want me to take the hair off of your arms, mija?"

And she answered, "Because it bothers me, Mami, and then I can stop wearing my fleece to school every day."

I asked her why she wore her fleece. Then she said something that I will never forget: "Well, Sophie asked me why my arms were so hairy," she said quietly. "Then she told me they were weird. Then she laughed at me."

My daughter is never going to forget that someone laughed and called her "weird" because of her body. All I can do is help her move past it, so there was no way that I could refuse her simple request.

I can tell you that as a mom, what I wanted to do was punch that 7-year-old in the face because she has put it in my daughter's head that there is something wrong with her arms. That will never go away. My daughter is never going to forget that someone laughed and called her "weird" because of her body. All I can do is help her move past it, so there was no way that I could refuse her simple request. I had to do what was best for her.

I explained that hair on our body is completely natural and that we all have it. Some of us have more than others but that if this were really what she really wanted, I would shave her arms. She was sure.

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I washed her arms. Lathered them with shaving cream and, almost surreally, I shaved my 7-year-old's tiny arms from her wrist all the way up to her elbow.

When we were done, she hugged me and said, "Oh, Mami, they're so smooth! Now, I don't have to wear my fleece every day in class to cover my arms!"

She was so exited that she proudly ran downstairs to show her dad and her sister.

Hair is just a natural part of growing up. Denying them the ability to shave is like denying a girl who is growing breasts a bra. Denial won't stop the fact that it exists; it will only make things harder.

As a Latina, as a woman, I know that some of us are a hairier than others. My parents didn't allow me to shave my legs or my "Pedro" (as I affectionately refer to the hair that nefariously grows above my top lip). I was 16 before I got the nerve to shave my legs in secret. I lost half of my ankles in these covert operations and I swore that when the time came, my girls would never have to shave in secrecy.

Hair is just a natural part of growing up. Denying them the ability to shave is like denying a girl who is growing breasts a bra. Denial won't stop the fact that it exists; it will only make things harder on my child. It's hard enough being a girl, I never want my girls to feel that awkward humiliation or be stumped when someone else points out what they already know.

I always knew that when my daughters came to me about hairy legs, out-of-control eyebrows or the inevitable extra lip hair that I would help them navigate the experience but it would be a non-issue until they came to me and asked for help. My end goal is their happiness in the skin they're in.

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I know some might not agree with shaving a 7-year-old's arms. I realize that it sounds vain and cosmetic, and no, I don't want to encourage my girls to believe that they need to change to meet society's expectations of beauty. This wasn't about that. It was about me helping my daughter feel better about herself because it bothered her — just like I would take her to a dermatologist if she had acne, or get her braces if her teeth were crooked. I shaved my daughter's arms because that is what she needed to feel good in her own skin, and I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

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