Care and Feeding

My 7-Year-Old Is Worried About Her Little Mustache

Should I urge her to take pride in her body—or help her shave it off?

A young girl covering her mouth with her hand.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Getty Images Plus.

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Email careandfeeding@slate.com or post it in the Slate Parenting Facebook group.

Dear Care and Feeding,

My 7-year-old daughter has pulled me aside several times over the past few months to tell me that she is sad because she has so much hair on her upper lip. Apparently, a couple of kids at her school mentioned it once or twice (although I’m quite sure she isn’t being bullied about it at this point).

She does have darker and thicker hair on her upper lip than most kids, so this is not all in her head. I never ever would have thought that I would consider allowing such a young kid to remove body hair, but it does seem to deeply bother her, and I’m considering it. I’m on the fence between treating it like I would an unalterable part of her (we need to learn to love ourselves for who we are, and appearances are not who we are inside) or more like a bad haircut or outfit (not a big deal, just change it if you don’t like it). If we take the latter approach, I’d talk to a pediatric dermatologist for advice on how to remove it. Do you have thoughts?

—Did Not Anticipate This Conversation

Dear DNATC,

I think that you can easily combine the lessons of “There is nothing wrong with your upper lip. You are a beautiful person, and anyone who gives you crap about it is a dick” with “You have enough bodily autonomy at your age to remove this hair if it bothers you. Let me find out the best way to go about doing it.”

Since we hopefully all know that shaving hair does not make it grow back darker and thicker—your grandma lied to you!—if it were me, I would simply assist her in shaving her mustache every few days. But talking to a pediatric dermatologist seems like a fine idea if you have the time and resources to do so.

Dear Care and Feeding,

Before I was born, my father took his own life. I can’t ever remember a time when I did not know this, nor has it ever been a burden to me. My mother met a man when I was 15. He has no children of his own. They married shortly after I graduated high school. However, I’ve never lived with this man or considered him my father. He is by default Pappy to my 2-year-old.

My daughter picks things up quickly, so I figure I only have about another year and a half, tops, before she realizes that typically a Pappy is someone’s daddy and by association he should be mine. I’m unsure how to approach mental illness, suicide, and the rest of this subject with my toddler. What should I say?

—Not My Daddy

Dear NMD,

Your child is 2. I honestly find it extremely unlikely she will be asking prying questions or playing Sherlock as to who this Pappy character truly is.

When she does ask, whenever that may be, you can explain that your own father passed away before you were born. She will have many, many little friends who have lost grandparents. If she asks how he died, I would answer very vaguely and then sit her down for a conversation about mental illness and suicide when she’s a little older. Twelve, perhaps. It’s up to you, of course, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a little trickle-truthing when it comes to such a big-ticket conversation with such a young child.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My son (who is 8) loves to dance and takes ballet, tap, and jazz/hip-hop lessons. He is the only boy in all of his dance classes and almost always has been. Although he does not mind being the only boy (and in fact likes that he always gets some kind of little special part in the dances for the recital), he has been teased at school about liking dance so much and particularly about being a boy who does ballet. After he told me this, we spent some time looking up male ballet dancers and started watching some of the dance shows on TV that include male dancers.

We have had discussions about activities (such as dance) being for all people, not just for boys or just for girls, and that it is OK to like things that are different from what other people like. He continues to love dance and want to do it—and reports that he has not been teased about this at school lately—but I worry that as he gets older, he will get more pushback. Society still seems to view a girl who likes so-called boy activities more positively than a boy who likes so-called girl activities. Do you have any advice on how else to support him?

—Mom to a Young Billy Elliot

Dear Billy’s Mom,

You’re doing a great job, and your son sounds like a delightful young man. I honestly think that the teasing will lessen, not increase, as time goes on. Younger children are a little more hung up on gender roles in general, and I suspect that when he hits his teens, no one is really going to care what he does outside of school. Heck, if he identifies as heterosexual at that point, he can fend off the stray remark with the observation that he is where the girls are, which is a silly and reactionary thing to say, but also may do the trick. Only a real troglodyte is still wandering around in 2019 being shocked that men can be dancers too.

Just keep doing what you’re doing, and be thrilled and proud that he is close enough to you and trusts you enough to talk to you about these things. I also recommend constantly rewatching the final scene of Billy Elliot, because it’s so beautiful and also shows the intense athleticism of dance in a really empowering and lovely way. (It’s up to you whether to watch the rest of the movie with him; it’s really great but definitely includes more uses of cunt than you may remember.)

Dear Care and Feeding,

I have three kids, 4, 2½, and 5 months. The older two are girls who are BEST friends. They have only ever been separated for a matter of hours, like when one goes to dance, gymnastics, swim lessons, etc. As soon as they are back together, they hug and tell each other how much they missed each other. It’s super cute, and I love that they get along so well, but the older one will be starting preschool in the fall, it will be two full days a week, and I’m worried about the transition for her sister.

The middle child will be going to day care with her baby brother on those two days, a place she’s gone to for years, so she’s used to it—just not used to attending without her sister. What can I do to make this change successful for both girls?

—Preschool Problems

Dear PP,

I honestly wouldn’t borrow trouble by making a big deal out of it. Be warm but matter-of-fact about the change, and keep an eye on how your younger daughter is doing. Make sure the girls have lots of time to spend together outside of school hours (it’s only two days a week, so that should not be a big challenge).

It’s honestly just as likely that your older daughter, the one striking out boldly into preschool, will find this transition a complicated one, so make sure to spend as much time seeing how she’s handling it.

I’m delighted by how close the girls currently are, and you should know that closeness will naturally ebb and flow with age and time. This is such a small change that I don’t think you have anything to worry about. Best of luck to both of them!

—Nicole

More Advice From Slate

My son, almost 3, goes to a day care, and has always been happy to attend—he’s never even cried when I leave him there. The problem is there is one girl in his class who keeps biting him! It has happened three to four times in the last three months. Should I be speaking up for him with the day care manager?