I remember getting my ears pierced. Not how old I was or where we were — maybe a flea market? A flea market where sometimes my mom let me get a Chipwich chocolate chip ice cream cookie sandwich. I sat in a tall stool that had a back and long legs. And I feel like I might have been 5. Maybe 6. 7? I swear I was no older than 8. In my mind I’m wearing a white cardigan and have one of those handmade ribbon barrettes in my hair that were so popular in the early 80s. Or maybe my hair was short. Hmmm.
But I remember it! Like it was yesterday. (Which, honestly, I don’t remember at all.)
Anyway, the details that my muddled mind can’t produce don’t matter. What does matter is that I remember how I felt. Scared. Proud. Excited. Grown up. And happy because although my parents agreed to let me get my ears pierced, it was my choice to do so.
I guess the reason why I’m against infant ear piercing is the same reason why I’m OK with a 16-year-old getting her nose pierced. Or, as in my house, a 10-year-old having a mohawk (over the summer only and it needs to be gone before school starts).
Your body, you decide what to do with it.
Obviously there are some limitations — I’m not advocating for tattoos on a tween or Botox or anything — but I think that it’s important early on to teach kids “you are the boss of your body” and give them nearly-complete control over it in terms of how they accessorize themselves. (Notice I said “nearly complete.”) If they want something reasonable — earrings, a funny haircut, a mismatched outfit in public — I’m fine with it.
Getting your ears pierced is a big decision and I think a child old enough to ask for them is old enough to get them — and care for them. Because that’s the other part. There is definitely some maintenance involved with pierced ears and while a 6-year-old probably can’t handle it herself, she needs to be involved in the process. It’s a big responsibility having earrings — the aforementioned upkeep, the NOT LOSING them.
For my daughter, pierced ears was something she totally wanted, but she was a bit apprehensive about. I told her the truth — yes, it is going to hurt, but only for a short time. I don’t know if the potential, self-decided pain made her nervous or she just had to work up to it, but she waited at least a year from the first time she asked and my husband and I said yes and when she actually got it done.
Ultimately her sense of fashion won out.
My sister was getting married in July and A., the flower girl, decided that she wanted earrings before that. “When I’m six,” she would tell me anytime we were in the mall and we passed the ear piercing booth. “Not now, when I’m six.” (Mind you her birthday is in January and this was in December, before Christmas, but hey, she had a plan.)
And sure enough, as soon as she turned six, she deemed herself ready. Once her Little League season was over (you have to remove earrings for games and I didn’t want to have to do that with new holes) off we went. It was a fun day for both of us and one I’m sure we will both remember (hopefully she’ll remember better than my first time).
I understand why people might want to get their infant’s ears pierced. Certainly there are cultural reasons. And I’ve heard other moms say they get their daughter’s ears pierced so people stop mistaking their sweet princess for an adorable prince. (Although I’m not sure how well that one actually works, because I used to dress A. in all pink, from head to toe, and I’d still get compliments on how cute he was. Trust me, if a person doesn’t pick up on the PINK! flowers and lace and tulle, they aren’t noticing the microscopic studs in her ears.)
But hey, there doesn’t even have to be a reason — you just want to works fine. But for me, it’s the child who has to want to. Not the parent.
Suzanne pierced her daughter’s ears when she was an infant. And I have to admit, she looked pretty adorable!
Originally published on October 23, 2010