Thursday, February 21, 2013

I Let My 6 Year-Old Get Pierced, So Sue Me

For Seconda's sixth birthday I took her to get her ears pierced. She was the belle of the ball this morning at school, all the girls swarming around to see. I didn't feel quite so much positive attention from the other moms.

"Oh, we told Loralei she had to wait til she was in middle school," one of the moms told me, "Or at least til she was 11."

"I just got my older daughter's ears pierced and she's 10," said another.

"Yeah we're making her wait," chimes in a third.

They weren't being mean or anything, just kind of vaguely judgey, the way Park Slope moms can get when you do something a little differently than the do. Of course, I'm a bit defensive about it too, was bracing myself for judgement. I knew that Sec would be one of the first girls in her grade to get her ears pierced; I knew most parents in this neighborhood make kids wait. In fact, I even know why, or at least some of the reasons why. A few years back, I wrote an article for TONY Kids about girls getting blinged up and spoke to parents about what they felt was appropriate at what age. A friend of mine with two older girls explained that she was making her girls wait til they were 9 to get their ears pierced, just so they'd have the experience of wanting something and waiting, being patient in anticipation. I get that. I admire it. I think its a good idea. I just don't feel compelled by it personally and I also don't think its the only way to do things. I also don't think it will prevent those kids from losing their virginity in the back of a car and snorting coke, which I feel is the implicit suggestion.

On some level, we make decisions like this according to our own experiences, and I had my ears pierced whenI was just about Seconda'a age, though I think I was younger, since I don't remember doing it. Its a cultural thing, too. Plenty of groups of people get their babies ear pierced in infancy, including lots of the Italian-American kids I grew up with in Bensonhurst. In fact, when Sec was about 6 months old, I came thiiiiiiis close to getting her ears pierced then -- made the appointment and everything -- for no other reason that I thought it'd look super cute to stick rhinestones in those baby lobes. Then David, Anglo that he is, talked me down and I agreed that we should wait til it was her choice. It was her body after all, and I didn't like the idea of changing it without her permission, just for ornamental purposes.

Last year, when she turned five, Sec started asking about wearing earrings. She's always loved bejeweling herself and had taken to wearing clip-ons, gifts from my aunt, or adhesive rhinestones in the place of real earrings. She got really fascinated with my earrings, and helping me pick them out. So David and I revisited the piercing question. Maybe it was the right time, we thought. After all, she was about to become a big sister and having a really hard time with the transition, and we thought it might soften the blow of the baby. But she was really nervous about getting pierced and it just felt too soon, like she didn't fully understand the commitment and what was entailed. I was scared she'd be scared and it would ruin the experience. So we decided to wait.

Then, about a month ago, Sec started asking about earrings again. And  this time, David and I agreed it just felt exactly right. She wasn't pushing hard for it or anything, not pestering us the way she does about getting a pet, just wondering when she'd be allowed to do it. David and I discussed it and decided that as long as she could agree to taking on the responsibility, it would be OK. So I sat her down and I explained that over the last year, she had really demonstrated to us that she was becoming mature, a big girl, especially the way she helped with the baby -- how gentle she was, how kind and careful. I told her I didn't know how I'd take care of the baby without her help, which is true enough. Then we went on the computer and researched ear piercing, discussed the details of how you clean them and how long you have to keep them in and all the particulars and I told her to think about and decide if she was prepared to take on that commitment.

"Yes!" she piped up immediately, "I am!"

"Well, we have a few weeks before you're birthday so let's just think about it some more and make sure," I told her.

And we did. She was sure. And so were David and I.

I did however, have this gnawing feeling that other parents wouldn't approve, would think it was too soon, and it kind of made me feel like I was buying my six year old hooker boots and a bra or something, rather than just getting her ears pierced.

"Do you think this will encourage her to be promiscuous and use drugs in high school?" I asked David, "The fact that we didn't make her wait longer?"

"I don't even understand what you're talking about," he replied. He doesn't give a shit what other parents think.

"I just don't want her to get a tramp stamp at 15 because we let her do this now," I protested.

"If only it were that easy to prevent bad shit from happening," he said.

So on her birthday afternoon, I took her to the local jewelry joint where the ear piercing professional told me he's just pierced his 6 year-old niece's ears. It was just me and her and she was so thrilled and excited, with only the slights hint of nerves.

"Hold my hand when he does it ok?" she asked.

"Of course," I told her.

I was a little shocked by her apparent lack of fear, and sort of assumed it was because she didn't know that it would hurt. I half expected that he'd pierce the first ear and then she'd be so terrified, she'd refuse to do the second and would walk around for a few years with one earring in, like a man  having a mid life crisis. That had happened to my cousin when she got her ears pierced (and she, for the record, was older). But when he used the piercing gun on the first ear, she hardly blinked, just opened her eyes wide in a look of wonderment and surprise. Then she asked for a mirror to see what the ear looked hike  and she said, "That hurt a little. But not too bad. Can we do the other one now?"

Not a tear was shed. Not even a brow was furrowed.

I was so proud. And certain, too, that it was the right time for her. Not for everyone, of course, but for her.

So sorry fellow Kindergarten moms, if I've opened up a can of worms and you have to now hear your little ones whining about how unfair it is that Seconda got her ears pierced and she's the same age as me and why can I get mine and you're the worst mom ever! May I suggest telling them what I tell my kids when they start that shit about getting a DS or a dog or staying up to watch the fireworks or whatever the hell it is: "Its hard to have such an awful mother, I know. But it will give you plenty to talk about in therapy one day."