August 07, 2009,
A.G. asks from Bend, OR on August 05, 2009
Mom Shaving a 6 Year Old. Creating Self Consciousness?
I know it is possible that I am overreacting, my boyfriends ex has shaved the cute tuft of hair that was under the 6year olds arm. It never embarrased her to have the hair until now. Doesn't this make a 6year old girl paranoid,self conscious, feel like she now has to live up to some standard. At 6! How do we fix the damage to come? She is also telling the kids (both 6) that the man she married 10 days after her divorce is to be referred to as dad. She put in divorce papers that will not be encouraged. Now it is happening and the kids are uncomfortable thinking of that. How do I fix this? And with much more to the story...
Allow me to elaborate a little bit...no doctor intervention needed, she had a hormone imbalance when she was younger causing some hair growth in normal (albeit later) places.
I just don't know which is worse, the extremeley rare occasion that someone may actually see her underarm and her knowing is is just how she is made, or mentioning now that her mom has started shaving it and having to explain that, at 6 years old, she needs to alter her appearance to be more acceptable (this is just how it feels to me, even though, face it, we all do it just not at 6 usually). (This is how I am, vs this is how I am SUPPOSED to be).
Calling him dad - I wouldn't even think about this, as it is, likely none of my business, EXCEPT, that they tell me they are uncomfortable with what they are told to do.
They WANT to call him by his name, and they are told that he IS THEIR DAD now. Ok, regardless of the opinions about whether this is ok...isn't it more important how THEY feel about it? I don't discuss it with them, they just tell me what is going on, I tell them that I appreciate that they have feelings and ask what they are. I tell them they are allowed to have feelings and aside from that, I have no business telling them what I think is right or wrong, except within my own home. She specifically had added to the papers that neither party would encourage the children to call another person 'mom' or 'dad' aside from her as mom, and him as dad.
Fact is, they aren't comfortable or happy about it, and I don't know how to help him talk to her about it. Does this help?
I have appreciated everyone's input and I am quite open to adjusting my thought process.
2 moms found this helpful
So What Happened?™
Thank you all for the support and guidance, good, bad or indifferent. I appreciate you all.
I/We have opened the door of communication and, after some work on perfecting that, we will discuss the children's feelings about calling him 'dad'. I will continue to be involved since, I know with experience, that ALL of us need to be informed or involved in the decisions. Not JUST Mother and Father (involved or informed, not necessarily 'part of the decisions'). I am in the perpetual state of 'we'll see'. More court to come as well.
E.W. answers from Seattle on August 06, 2009
I think you should be cautious about getting involved. You are not the child's parent, the Mom (and Dad) should handle this. You will be seen as unwelcome interfering that will just add more friction to already problematic relationships.
Personally I would not have shaved it -- I agree with you there. I guess the best thing you can do is over a long period of time affirm that she is beautiful and that everybody has things about their body that make them different -- it's normal.
Again with the Dad situation -- you can't fix this. This is something the DAD needs to address, and even he might not be able to work it out.
What you should do is concentrate on the sphere in which you DO have influence. Not somebody ELSE'S household, but YOUR household. Make YOUR household as loving and stable as you possibly can. Make sure everyone in YOUR household treats everyone else with consideration and respect. Let go of other spheres that are outside your control.
6 moms found this helpful
M.W. answers from Seattle on August 06, 2009
I nannied a girl who had the same hormonal issue... and her mom (these were very wealthy and image-conscious people) shaved her underarms. She was fine in the long run. It was just part of the bath routine, and since she was so young, she probably thought it was just normal? It's not like the shaving is being done in the center of the house with everyone watching. The bigger deal the adults in her world make of it, the more self-conscious she may begin to feel. You're looking at it from one perspective (who cares if she has hair there?) and her mom may be looking at it from the other (what if kids draw attention to it if they see it?). I can see how both perspectives are important, but kids *can* be cruel... even just asking questions might be awkward, "Why do you have hair there?" could be innocent, but to a six year old, it could be the beginning of not feeling accepted.
As for the "Dad" thing... you and your husband need to talk about how his kids are feeling, and how it affects you since you know it's not appropriate for you to "tell them" what they should do (even though it sounds like they are asking you for advice). It sounds like you are being respectful about the boundaries. It also sounds like you have struck a chord with some of the moms on this list!! You may really care about the kids, but right now, this issue is for them to come to terms with through their parents. I've had friends who were told/encouraged to call step-dad "Dad" because their mothers were so insecure and desperate to keep these men in their lives that didn't "want" kids; it was an attempt to make the man feel more connected, and more times than not, it failed. Kids are resilient, they will figure things out in time.
3 moms found this helpful
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H.D. answers from Portland on August 06, 2009
First of all, I think Ellie hit this right on the mark. And I have my own two cents to add...
regarding shaving: mixed bag. My sister and I are both hirsute and had very different experiences of it in regard to our mother's concern and how she felt/what she did. My suggestion would be to find some open-ended questions to ask your stepdaughter if/when this subject of body hair comes up. "Well, what do you think you'd like to do?" or "How do you feel about it?" You might be surprised to hear what she has to say.
While it is certainly their father's place to speak with their mother, what you can do is just be there for the kids. There is a *wonderful* book that is perfect for this situation entitled "How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and How to Listen so Kids Will Talk" by Faber and Mazlish. I cannot recommend this book enough, because the principles in it can be applied to any sort of interpersonal relationship, not just adult/child. This book gives reasonable, respectful techniques that can help you be there for your stepchildren while giving them space to feel okay about their mom, and encourages them to do some of their own problem-solving. This would be my recommendation for the "call him Dad" dilemma...see what sort of solution the kids come up with, and see if they can work it out with their stepfather. Then, and only then, if this doesn't work, let the adult intervention (your boyfriend) step in.
One more thing, and it hasn't been mentioned yet: family counseling, in some form. I know from experience how difficult divorce and familial transitions are, even in the best of circumstances. All the adults involved will not always agree on parenting decisions the other household is making and there needs to be some non-traumatic way to deal with differences and conflict in the years ahead. This is in no way a judgment regarding any one party's parenting skills, but just a realistic suggestion. Kids sometimes need to have a 'neutral' third party to talk to about all of this stuff with, without worrying about hurting someone or another's feelings.
You obviously really love and care about the kids. Best wishes, and again...get that book. I guarantee it will help!
2 moms found this helpful
K.R. answers from Portland on August 07, 2009
you are right, what you can do is to offer them a listening ear. if the relationship with their mom was better, you or your boyfriend could address these issues with her, but it's sounding like that's a no-go ;) ... and technically, even for relatively little kids, noone should run interference between the parents ...
your boyfriend has legal recourse, if it's in the document, to potentially get the court to order her to stop on the "dad" thing ... but I've been trying to make my children independent on this sort of thing ... in our case it's the watching movies that are not appropriate (nightmares) ... anyhow, I'd like to think (although of course it doesn't always apply) that a parent would listen to their kid telling them that (x) makes them uncomfortable or unhappy, and couldn't we do (y) instead? And also one would like to think that parent would take the time to explain (and listen to counter arguments) why (x) is the rule.
Opinion aside, I don't remember reading ANY divorce-parenting book that said it was a good idea in any way to have the kid(s) call new partners "Dad" or "Mom" or any equivalent (except I suppose under their own choice) ... most books spent a long time on how the new partner is *NOT* the dad nor the mom and NOONE in the situation, kid or parent, should assume that at all (and especially shouldn't use the term as if the situation were "obviously" so!!). That's not "opinion" and the mom, if she recognizes any authority in the long years of sociological child-based, outcomes, statistical outcomes studies in divorce parenting books, needs to go read some (or listen to books on CD or something, when the kids can't hear them) and get her head on straight.
In My Humble Opinion.
(I think you are right on on these two items. So sorry. Being in a divorce has been an eye-opener for me about my own behaviors ;) ... maybe she'll come around. We can hope, ya?)
2 moms found this helpful
J.W. answers from Seattle on August 06, 2009
Well, 6 yr old is a little young, like a whole lot young to be getting underarm hair. I know kids are reaching puberty earlier, but I would be taking the 6 yr old to the dr to see what is going on, hormonally. With that said, maybe the 6 yr old saw Mom shaving and wanted to emulate that activity. Maybe Mom was trying to alleviate any comments or teasing from the 6 yr old's friends. Kids can be very cruel and this is an easy fix. What a step-parent thinks is a cute little tuft of hair could be a growing huge ugly hairball in the eyes of a youngster who is developing a head of schedule.
As far as the kids calling their step-dad "Dad", that's a family decision. Maybe those kids feels that comfortable with their step-father that they want to call him that. Kids of divorce become quite adept at playing their parents, they like the attention, the drama, the focus on them because now you're all worried and concerned about how their Mom could do such a thing, and your focus will be away from their behaviors, etc. And as far as the length of time after the final decree to the day they got married, I wouldn't be throwing any rocks. You don't know how long their marriage was in trouble and it takes time to get a divorce finalized, so things are what they are. At this point in time you're still not married and you're living with their Dad. She was just 'luckier' than her ex in finding his soulmate, you. All our bodies change as we age or go thru different experiences in life. If you're fearful of some weight gain, how is that fear, that paranoia seen by the 6 yr old who you're afraid will become so self-concious about her body image? Kids learn what they live.
2 moms found this helpful
M.F. answers from Seattle on August 06, 2009
I think it is odd that someone would have their 6 year old shave but I would just let that go and try to let her know that she is a normal little girl and help her understand if she asks.
In regards to the kids calling another person Dad this is your boyfriends place to talk to the mom. I am a step mom and I have been in the picture since he was 4. I have always been called by my first name. Eventhough he calls me by my first name he knows that I am one of his parents and he has to listen to me just like mom, dad, and moms boyfriend. Over the last 8 years he has called me mom a couple of times and if people refer to me as mom he will not correct them but I never encouranged him to call me mom since I am not his mom and I am not trying to take his moms place! Now that we have a new baby he refers to me more as mom but this was never forced or encouraged. I would only go to court as a last resort. Maybe your boyfriend could talk to the new husband and maybe they can work out a name that works for both of them.. maybe papa or uncle? just a thought. But as a step mom you have to let your boyfriend take the lead on this one... Hope this helps and not to scare you but being a step parent is sometimes harder than being a parent!
1 mom found this helpful
K.K. answers from Portland on August 06, 2009
My husbands ex wife shaved my bonus daughters legs at 4 years old! (Luckily she walked out shortly after that so it didn't continue) I will tell you what we have gone through since... she was obsessed with thinking she needed to shave the second she had a hair anywhere. We put a stop to any type of hair removal once I came into the picture when she was 7... prior to that, nair and other cream type removers had been used off and on to try to satisfy her without allowing her to actually shave. She is now almost 14... I can't get her to take a shower, let alone shave! She doesn't care about clean clothes... will wear them over and over again without a concern for smell, stains, etc. She will brush her hair, if she is leaving the house.
I can't say for certian, but I believe this has something to do with the fact that she was told way too early to be concerned with what other people thought of her looks.
If it's in the divorce not to encourage calling another person mom or dad, I would strongly encourage taking her back to court and I would also bring up what is age appropriate, etc. and possibly see if the judge would order a parenting class (which all parties may have to take in order to request bio mom does it).
1 mom found this helpful
S.K. answers from Seattle on August 06, 2009
I don't think you are overreacting and I think you are right to get involved. I don't have any personal experience with this but I have read posts previously of similar situations that have serious impacts on the child. I think that this is definitely going to make her self conscious and worried about how she looks. How sad for a 6 year old to feel that way. I agree with getting her checked out at the doctor to make sure nothing is wrong. And I think you should strongly encourage your boyfriend to have a stern talk with the ex about not continuing to do this. I also agree with the poster who said to try to build up her self esteem when you are with her.