DD, 13, is pigeontoed (intoes). Her legs and feet turn inward when she walks. She has always done it. 90% of children who intoe grow out of it by age 11 or so, but my DD is one of the few who never did outgrow it and never will. Braces, physical therapy, orthotics etc. have all been deemed ineffective (we sought medical advice several times during her childhood). Recently we had her seen by two different pediatric orthopedic surgeons. Both diagnosed her with excessive femoral anteversion and tibial torsion (in layman's terms, this means both of her femurs twist in, so that her legs point inward and her knees point toward each other rather than straight out... plus, one of her tibia bones also turns in). The surgeons both explained that intoeing is unlikely to cause her any pain, arthritis or medical complications later in life, so basically it is (aside from some tripping and general clumsiness) a purely cosmetic problem. It is very obvious. Her feet turn in almost 45 degrees and her toes overlap when she walks.
The only fix is a fairly involved surgery in which they cut both femurs, untwist them, secure them with pins. Serious stuff, long recovery time, but very effective and she would walk normally immediately after healing. Doctors don't like to do the surgery except in the most extreme cases, and she is borderline. The surgeon didn't say he wouldn't do it, but he did say it would be cosmetic.
At the time we had the last consultation, DD decided she didn't want the surgery. She never made much of a big deal about it, and seemed to accept the intoeing as a part of herself. However, this year (7th grade) kids have gotten pretty brutal. They make fun of her a lot, ask her why she walks that way. Recently she told me that at school some of the kids will walk next to her or in front of her, turn their feet inward and ape the way she walks. That just broke my heart.
She also has cut back a lot on sports, saying she trips too much and doesn't like to run. She has been asking lately about the surgery, and says she wants to do it.
I don't know how to counsel her. I hate so much to see her suffering. I know middle school is likely the worst of it, high school will be better, and after that it won't be so bad ... but I think about her going through her whole life with this one burden. Always walking differently than everyone else, always sticking out in a crowd. And I know that that is not necessarily bad, that we all have our burdens and our difficulties and maybe this will make her a stronger person ... blah, blah, blah. But then my mothering heart kicks in and says yes, but life is hard enough as it is. And frankly my DD has some other challenges and hardships to deal with. She already sees herself as a "misfit," and while I don't think fixing her walk would automatically change that (and I'm ok with her self-indentifying in whatever way she chooses), I don't want her to suffer needlessly. I was teased a lot in elementary school, and while it got better later, it did change me. It's a hard thing to get over.
So, I'm torn. On the one hand I want to continue to teach her that what's inside matters more than what's outside. If she were, say, unhappy with the shape of her nose, for example, I would not counsel a nose job. I would counsel self-acceptance. And this surgery is a big deal - it's not a little one-day procedure. On the other hand, when I pick her up after school every day I see all the kids walking out of school. You can spot my DD from a couple hundred feet away by the way she walks. I feel so sad that she has to carry that burden, especially knowing that she is suffering from it.