My daughter is beautiful and fair-skinned, with perfect blond hair. She also has the misfortune of having very heavy, almost-black eyebrows that start to resemble twin tarantulas if left to their own devices.
I grew up believing you had to be of a certain age to do certain things: shave your legs (12), wear lipstick (13) and color your hair (not while I still lived under my parents' roof). Society imposes rules on how old we must be to drive, vote and order a drink in a bar, but the magic number for “I am old enough to make decisions about my outward appearance” is generally left up to the parents.
Eyebrow maintenance, however, wasn't on my list. My natural brows are pretty thin, and the color, thankfully, matches the hair on my head. My daughter was not so lucky.
Her heavy brows started to make their appearance toward the end of elementary school. Her classmates poked fun at her and asked her if she dyed her hair. Her blond locks were of such stark contrast to her eyebrows it really did look like one of the colors wasn’t what nature had given her.
You can say “kids will be kids,” but that goes only so far. I know teasing is a part of just about everyone’s childhood, but when you’re on the precipice of puberty and your body and mind are going through confusing changes, being teased about your appearance is a big deal. Being unhappy about your appearance is a big deal no matter how old you are. We preach self-acceptance and tell our kids what’s on the inside is what really counts, and those things are true, but those sentiments don’t always give a parent the right things to say when their child is unhappy with their appearance.
And my daughter was unhappy with her eyebrows.
I soothed her as best I could. I told her she was beautiful just as she was — which was true. I told her the other kids who were teasing her were jackasses — which was true. I told her that when she got a little bit older, there were things we could do to tame her eyebrows.
“Why can’t I do those things now?” she asked.
“Because you are too young,” was my answer, which didn’t satisfy her one bit.
The more I told her she was too young, the lamer it sounded. I was giving some kind of elusive age cutoff to address the thing that was making her unhappy, and it started to not make sense to me.
I thought of trying to help her neaten her brows with my trusty tweezers, but the idea of trying to pluck hairs from my tween’s face just had disaster written all over it. An at-home waxing kit sounded even worse, and there was just something about salon waxing that sounded too grown-up for a girl of 10.
My decision was made for me when she attempted to tidy her brows using my razor. The result was a disaster. She'd attempted to shape them, which resulted in patches of missing hair nested in the middle of her otherwise heavy brow line. If you ever think, “Maybe I’ll just use this razor to neaten/shape my eyebrows,” stop. Trust me, this is never a good idea.
I made an appointment at a salon and tried my very best to explain what it felt like to have hair ripped out of your skin by the root to a 10-year-old. She got through the waxing appointment like a trooper, and I saw the change coming from within her immediately. Feeling good about your outward appearance is a confidence booster. Letting her get her brows waxed was such a little thing, but it made her happy.
I was criticized for allowing my daughter to wax her eyebrows. I heard:
“She’s too young,” “you’re teaching her outward appearances are what's most important” and "you're trying to make her grow up too fast."
I heard these things from my friends and co-workers as well as some of the moms of her friends, who I can only assume went home and asked if they could get their eyebrows waxed too. In the scope of all the parenting decisions I've ever made, I thought this one was fairly low-threat, and it surprised me how vocal people were about it.
As parents, we make decisions on what our children are old enough for on many things. Most of the time, we just take a deep breath and hope we chose wisely. As for teaching her that outward appearances are more important than what is inside? By letting her wax her eyebrows? No way.
What’s on the outside impacts how we feel about ourselves and how we interact with others. Shaggy eyebrows certainly don’t make anyone less of a person, but neither does not wanting to have shaggy eyebrows — at any age.
I’m teaching all my children that being their best selves is a combination of mind and body. I don’t regret letting my daughter start waxing at age 10, and nor does she. She’s 23 years old now, and she knows that what’s on the inside is what’s really important.
And she still gets her eyebrows waxed.
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