Saturday, August 24, 2013

Pierced and Proud--My Little Girl Got Earrings

Of all of our parenting choices that have been outside the mainstream, the one that has actually gotten the most comments was our refusal to pierce our daughters' ears when they were born.  This shocked some dear little abuelitas (not our kids' abuelitas, though) to their core.  (Of course, neither did we shave their heads when they were infants so that their hair would grow in thicker, either.  :shrug).  For us, this was easy compared to so many decisions that we researched and weighed--as new parents, the last thing we wanted was to deal with an unnecessary wound on a tiny baby!  Even more importantly, they weren't our bodies to modify.

One of our greatest responsibilities as parents is to teach our children that their bodies belong to them.  No one else is allowed to do things to their bodies without permission.  Sure, there may be medical emergencies that override that, but seriously, getting ear jewelry isn't one.  We do all that we can to keep our children safe, but we know that there are predators out there.  Children who are confident in telling others, even adults in positions of authority, not to touch their bodies are less likely to become prey, and more likely to tell us if it should happen.  And as they grow older, sometimes the lines get a little blurry.  We live in a rape culture where it is assumed that guys are supposed to pressure girls, and girls will eventually give in.  I want their body boundaries to be such a part of them that they will never feel uncertain of their right to control what happens to their bodies.

Since my ears are pierced (and I am very thankful that my parents also bucked tradition and let me choose for myself), my kidlets have watched me wear different earrings and asked questions about it.  We talked about different options, including waiting to get her ears pierced as a celebration of menarche, but this summer my nine year old decided that she wanted to go ahead.  She kept asking how much it would hurt (she is very sensitive to needles), and was clearly nervous.  However, she was also adamant that she wanted to do it.  I was honest that it would hurt some, but also that if this was what she wanted that I believed she was strong enough to go through it whenever she decided she was ready.

Mine were done with a gun at the mall, but after researching I decided to use a professional piercer for my kids.  There are many reasons, but think of the difference between a hole from a hole punch versus the ragged edges from pushing a sharp pencil through a piece of paper and how that could effect healing, for starters.  I asked for recommendations, and my midwife shared the place where her daughters got their ears pierce, and several other friends recommended the same place.

Like any professional tattoo/piercing parlor, the decor was geared more for adults (my kidlets were simultaneously fascinated and horrified by the Native American sculptures of warriors who had been pierced through the chest and were hanging from a tether).  We didn't look closely at the tattoo designs or magazines.  (Also, like most other piercing places I have researched, they only pierce lobes on children, and we were required to bring her birth certificate and photo ID).

The guy who was going to pierce her came out.  He was probably 6'4 and around 260 lbs.  His head was shaved and covered in ink, and the rest of him that was visible was likewise covered with piercings, gauges and tats (he awed my kids by passing a pencil easily through the gauge in his septum).  He was also the nicest and most professional guy we could have asked for.

He spoke directly to her and then to me, describing exactly what would be done, how and why.  He asked her questions to make sure that she understood and that this was what she wanted, answered honestly when she asked if it would hurt, and did everything possible to help her feel relaxed and comfortable.

The only awkward moment came as a result of her little sister having a meltdown shortly after we went back.  In hindsight, it was totally a mommy fail to bring her--I knew she was exhausted and not feeling great, but my eldest didn't want to wait and the little sis thought she would be able to behave well.  She started fussing loudly and then tried to hit me when I picked her up.  Our piercer said that when he was a boy he would have been spanked hard for that.  My eldest looked at him with such compassion and said, "That is horrible!  No one should ever hurt you like that!"  He responded that it taught him a lesson.  She shook her head sadly and told him that if anyone ever spanked her that she would have just decided in her heart that she didn't want to do what they said and would have fought them in every way she could.  She said it was so much better when parents could actually help their kids instead of scaring them.  I am sure that the behavior of the little one provoked doubts about the effectiveness of gentle discipline, but he was also very impressed with the our eldest, and was very polite in responding to her.  :)

He had her count with him as he pierced the first ear, and the needle was through and out before she could even blink.  He asked if she needed a moment before doing the other ear.  She said yes with perfect calm, took a deep breath and smiled and told him to go ahead.  He did the other just as easily, and she beamed at her reflection.  "It didn't even hurt hardly at all!"

She has been so pleased with her new pierced ears, and has taken excellent care of them without hardly any reminder from me (another bonus of letting them choose when they are older!).  More than just being happy with the way they look, she is so proud of herself for her bravery and her growing maturity.  I look at her eyes sparkling even more than the earrings, and am so pleased that we let her make the choice for herself. 


Olivia said...

We, too, have chosen to wait to pierce the girls' ears. It's on the table as soon as they receive the blessing of their cycles, but the timing is up to them. I chose when to have mine done (13) and nearly passed out at the mall. We will also go to a professional piercer.

Carissa said...

I love the lecture your little one gave the piercer!
My 6-yr-old had her ears pierced in a tattoo parlor with our secret weapon: Emla cream. She was not afraid as we have used the cream for shots with great success (numbs to 1" deep under the skin) and she chatted with the piercer without skipping a beat when the needle went in. Holes were completely pain free in under 48 hrs. Needle is the way to go!