There are times that I am very grateful that I have sons and not daughters.
Yesterday another mum (the lovely Actually Mummy) was asking twitter it's opinions on whether an 8 year old girl should be allowed to get rid of the hair on her legs. The reason being that this girl is being teased at school by both boys and girls for having hairy legs, and she had told her Mum this and wanted to know what she could do because it was making her unhappy .I for one added my two pennies worth, and I could see going through her timeline, that this Mum had started a very interesting debate which received a lot of tweets.
It made me think back to my own childhood/teenage years and the problems I faced with my Mum; trying to make her understand my own feelings when I myself was teased on several occasions regarding more than one issue that made me feel unhappy.
I matured very young and a lot sooner than many of my friends, and I had dark hair which resulted in hair legs and underarms from primary school onwards. It wasn't until I reached secondary school that I was teased for it, probably when I was about 12 or 13. It wasn't so bad during the winter months because I wore thick black tights, but as soon as the warmer months arrived, and indeed in my PE lessons throughout the school year, my hairiness was on show for all to see and I got a lot of stick for it, mostly from boys.
My mum must have been aware of my hair 'problem' because when I was 13 she actually let me get rid of the hair with an electric lady razor (a Phillips one from memory) during the school holidays. it was great and I thought this meant that she was going to let me continue , but she didn't allow me to do it again until I was 14 or 15 when I was given me of those razors for a birthday or Christmas present!
Again, as I mentioned before, I was well developed at a young age and by the age of 9 I had little 'lady bumps' on my chest, and I was aware of them because the boys at my primary school were always trying to get a look when we got changed for PE ( we had unisex changing rooms there, it was a small village school) which was soooooo embarrassing! I remember when I was about 11 over hearing my Nan telling my mum that maybe it was time I had a bra, but Mum said I was too young. Fast forward a couple more years, and I am at secondary school and I see girls with really flat chests wearing their 'trainer bras' and I am looking at mine and thinking my boobs are bigger than theirs! My best friend told me that I just needed to tell my Mum that I needed a bra , but the trouble was I got embarrassed by such things and would go bright red! Anyway, eventually when I was 14 I was allowed one!
When I started secondary school my Mum decided instead of me having a brand new pair of school shoes like my brother, I was to have a hand me down pair that she had as we shared the same size feet. O.M.G!! They were just the most disgusting pair of shoes ever! Honestly, they were. They were black lace ups with a pale brown coloured chunky heel - I remember seeing them on the female police officer in the opening or closing credits of The Bill back when it first started on TV. Basically, not the type of shoe a 12 year old girl would want to wear, especially when starting a new school! Well I got called so many names from sky scraper, 4x4 (I was tall anyway, the shoes did not help!) well you get the idea! It was humiliating!
About half way through the school year, Mum relented and bought me a pair of nicer shoes from Clarkes, on condition that I still wore my old 'cloghoppers' (my own name for them) on the walk to school and then changed into my new shoes at my school locker. Well, I would change shoes before I entered the school gates, but unfortunately one day I must have forgotten to pick my new shoes up because I lost them! I was devastated and cried and cried for ages because it meant having to go back to wearing those awful shoes again!
It's ok, you can put the violins away now!!
When I think back to these things, it makes me realise that none of them did anything for my self confidence and I didn't have any for a long, long, long time. I still don't really, but as you get older you learn to accept yourself more and there are no school children to tease you! My mum didn't realise, and indeed still doesn't realise, how I felt back then, how her decisions affected me. It's like she had no empathy with my situation. Mind you if I thought kids were mean back then, just imagine what taunting I would have got if all that applied to me as a child/teenager nowadays! I would be a social outcast!! I guess that's the thing, although I was teased, it didn't happen to me aged 8 I was at least at secondary school on the verge of becoming a teenager.
I think it is very sad that nowadays, children as young as 8 are made to feel self conscious about their appearance and in GG's case about an issue which is not her own doing, after all, it is perfectly natural and healthy and NORMAL to have hair on your legs ! Indeed it is more abnormal not to have body hair. If the decision is made by her Mum to have her let hair removed then I also find it sad that a girl so young feels pressured to do this to feel happier and to shut the name callers up.
BUT I really admire and respect Actually Mummy for addressing this issue head on and taking into account her daughters anxieties and feelings, and taking her seriously. I really wish my Mum had done the same for me. But then I never had the confidence to speak to my mum properly about such important subjects because I couldn't I guess. I just wasn't able to speak openly about it. That is sad also. It's not that my Mum and I had a terrible relationship, I just didn't have the guts to face up to how I really felt and discuss it with her.
Yet I can't help but think why can't children be children anymore? Why do they feel they have to adhere to what they think is the 'norm' and why do other children have to be so mean when they probably have their own hang ups too. It is just wrong that youngsters can't just enjoy being young. They shouldn't have to face such dilemmas at such a young age.
It also makes being a parent even more tough doesn't it.