Janie had her ears pierced Sunday.
I’m so proud of her—a statement that’s neither sarcasm nor the crowing of a mother who has five sets of piercings running up the outside of her own ears.
See, those two little fake-emerald studs stapled through my firstborn’s lobes are the culmination of two really long, and at one point really loud, Learning Experiences™.
Janie has been mentioning getting her ears pierced since she was seven and a half. I thought ten was a good age—I hoped that by then, her reluctance to brush her teeth for more than three seconds, with toothpaste, would be overcome and other acts of general hygiene would have become habit.
But it soon became a daily topic of conversation and comparison:
“Hi, honey! How was school?”
“All of my friends have pierced ears but me.”
“That’s nice. Did you do your math homework?”
“Yes. Shianna has two holes in each ear!”
“How about science? Any science homework?”
“Sarah has earrings shaped like gummy worms.”
A quick survey of her class showed that all of her friends do have pierced ears—plus two of the boys. So I relented and agreed with my husband that when she was ready, we’d go.
The first time, we took her to the earring place at the Mall as a surprise on her eighth birthday. She froze—turned out she wasn’t as ready as she thought she was. And then she cried because she thought she’d ruined our excitement . . . and that we wouldn’t let her pierce her ears at all because she didn’t want to do it when we wanted her to.
We told her that we were sorry for springing it on her, told her it was completely her decision, and bought ice cream instead.
The second time. . . I kind of forgot about that middle bit.
Six months later, she decided she was absolutely ready. I took her into the earring place, she picked out a set of birthstone studs, sat in the chair, giggled through the disinfecting process, took one look at the piercing guns . . . and went fetal duck-and-cover in the chair.
A Good Mother would have backed off immediately. A Good Mother would have said, “We’ll save these studs for when you’re ready to wear them. It’s okay, honey. I’m not mad. They’re your ears. Let’s go get some ice cream.”
But I’d already paid for them. And I thought all she needed was a little bit of coaxing, a little comforting, a little bribery . . . And when that didn’t work and she wouldn’t get out of the chair or straighten up, lost what little cool I had and told her in a no-nonsense way that it was happening because we were here and I’d already paid for them so let go of your ears.
She started to scream. Full-throated, tonsil-vibrating screams.
Did I mention that we were at the Mall? In front of a glass wall? With people looking through it wondering if they should call child services? I actually held up my hands and backed away from her—something I should have done twenty minutes prior.
The manager of the store refused to come near her and that’s how I ended up with my top piercings—because I’d already paid for them.
‘Course, so had Janie. I apologized for that, later and for a while.
Every time I fiddle with those little hoops or look at them in a mirror, I’m reminded not to push my kids on non-essentials. I don’t get to override their feelings or their rights just because I’m frustrated or embarrassed or mad or I just don’t see the big deal. I can push on medical and safety stuff, weather and decency appropriate clothing, a certain level of cleanliness, education, and nutrition. The rest is not my call.
That was my Learning Experience™.
Which brings me to this weekend.
Last Wednesday, Janie said it was time. It. Was. Time. We believed her . . . but checked her resolve anyway over the next few days:
“How are you feeling about getting your ears done now?”
“Good. This weekend?”
“Umm . . . Sunday.”
“Yes. Well . . . I’m going to do it anyway.”
I’d already told her that if and when she wanted to get them done, her father was going to have to go with her. I explained that it didn’t have anything to do with her behavior and everything to do with mine. I wasn’t the right person to guide her through this—I didn’t trust myself to forget what I’d learned.
My husband, bless him, understood
So Janie and Sunny and my husband and I all went to the Big Mall a few towns over to spend some Christmas money and maybe drop by the big earring place at the far end, if Janie still wanted to.*
We shopped around for a while—bought Janie some sunglasses and Sunny some mini-skinny jeans that might have half a chance of staying around her waist,** then found a pie crust ring for my MIL and a microwave popcorn popper for me.*** You know—just doing our part for the American economy.
Then we all trooped over to the earring place.
Sunny and I shopped in the half of the store where Janie and her father were not. Sunny picked out two headbands and tried on the entire lower third of a display of sunglasses, while I browsed through the earrings, wondered why half of them were tiny, happy-faced, food items and congratulated myself on my parental cool.
Which was when Sunny spied something across the crowded room, fell in instantaneous accessory love, and took off for the racks on the other side of the piercing station.
I made a grab for her, missed, and followed as casually as I could.
Janie was sitting calmly in the chair, talking with the clerk and her father and even laughing a little bit. I wanted to check on her, see how things were going, offer a hand to hold . . .
. . . but instead, I edged past and carefully examined Sunny’s New One True Love, a yellow purse shaped like a flower, and entered into serious Christmas money negotiations.
I’d just capitulated—it was that kind of day, plus the purse was 30% off—when I heard a ka-CHUNK and a small, thoughtful, “Ow.”
Two seconds later, a beaming smile bounced up to me and said, “I did it! I said I was going to and I wasn’t sure but I did it anyway, Mommy! I decided and I did it!”
And the newly punctured kid behind that huge smile gave me the biggest hug ever, absolutely thrilled with her own Learning Experience™.
So this is why I’m proud of Janie for putting holes in her head.
And maybe just a little proud of myself for letting her.
*I haven’t set foot in the earring place in the Other Mall since The Big Screaming, and I’m not particularly planning on ever doing so again—Learning Experiences™ only go so far in erasing terminal embarrassment.
**In size three for a nearly five-year old—she’s such a peanut. If it weren’t for the fact that she has my SIL’s smile, my MIL’s build, and my BIL’s ability to knock down walls with a single belch, I’d be wondering if there’s a pre-kindergartener out there with thick, wavy brown hair whose tiny, curly-blonde parents are wondering where her kite-shaped mole came from and if the growth spurts are ever going to stop.
***I’m not so sure it’s going to be healthier than my regular Smart Pop microwave packets in the long run, considering my informed opinion that plain, unsalted popcorn makes for fine packing material and not much else. But it might be cheaper, even with all the stuff I’ll put on it.