Earrings for Evelina

It was one week before her sixth birthday when Evelina asked me if she could get her ears pierced for her seventh birthday.  I said “seventh?  you’re about to be six”.  She said “I know, but I already asked for an American Girl doll and I still want that, so I want this when I’m seven”.  She’s a thinker and planner – and patient beyond measure.  I said “that’s a whole year away, are you sure you want to wait”? “Sure”.

We spent the rest of dinner discussing what it’s like to get your ears pierced.  She had two friends at school with pierced ears, so I knew the question would be coming sooner rather than later and was armed with my research.  I knew that the guns they use at the mall can not be properly sterilized and the earrings they use, which cause blunt force trauma to the ear lobe in addition to a super loud/alarming sound in the ear, are made of cheap metal which create a long and painful healing process – which I remembered all to fondly from my own piercing at age 10.  These are just some of the many reasons that children are terrified of getting their ears pierced.  We would be going to a real piercer and she would be pierced with needles.

After dinner that night, we scoured youtube for videos of little girls getting their ears pierced.  I explained the process of the needles going through her ear, followed by the earring as she watched quietly as girl after girl sat through the procedure.  She didn’t ask one question and when we were done, about 45 minutes later, I looked at her and asked if she still wanted to have her ears pierced.  She looked at me with huge, brown eyes and said “yes” then she got up and went to play.

My plan had failed.  I assumed that watching the videos and hearing in detail the process, certainly she would change her mind.  After that, we did not speak about it again for almost a full year.  We stated talking about her seventh birthday a little more than a month before it, to start party planning. She says to me “remember not to get me a present, I’m getting my ears pierced”.  Darn it!  This patient, quiet little thing had been sitting with this for a year….waiting and doing her own research. I casually said, “oh, you still want to do that”?  She told me she had talked to Lucy, at school, and she told her it hurt so bad that she wanted to scream and that she did cry.  Did that make her resolve falter?  Was she scared?  Did she want to wait another year?  Nope.

So, I make the appointment and off we go to a well known tattoo and piercing place (one where I had gotten my belly button and nose pierced nearly 10 year earlier – and now I was taking my CHILD there)!!  I took her in the weekend before her appointment so she could see the place and we could pick out the earrings so she wouldn’t need to worry about that the day off.  I was expecting high anxiety and wanted to just walk in and get it over with.  She chose some adorable titanium barbells with “pink jewels” as the front.  She was ready.  I was not.

We went back the following Sunday to find out that they were out of the earrings she had selected.  The only option was an surgical grade, stainless steel infinity hoop (the one I secretly wanted her to choose anyways).  I thought, ok, this is it, she won’t want to do this if she can’t have the earring she wanted. Nope, she totally rolled with it.  We looked at the boring steel hoops with steel balls and she said “ok, I’ll get those”.  Ok.  At the last minute, the girl at the counter tells us that she can have a different colored ball on them, it didn’t need to be steel.  We look, and of course, they have pink disco balls – which she adores.  Win/win – we get the hoops that I know will be more comfortable to sleep in and she still gets her bling!

Now we wait, and we wait and we wait.  A full 40 minutes after our appointment we are called up by the most tattooed and pierced and lovely and sweet women.  We go upstairs and she explains the process to Evelina, in extreme detail.  She shows her the needle and the cork and explains that the needle will go through her ear into the cork and then the earring will go in after that.  Yes, it will hurt.  Yes, you will need to soak your ears in salt water twice a day, for 10 minutes each time, every day for the next 4 weeks.  Strong and stoic, she was ready to go.  I had tears in my eyes.

She marked Evelina’s ears with a toothpick and ink.  We all looked at it, including Evelina, to make sure they looked even and then we were ready to go.  She had her lay back on the table.  Left ear was first.  I stood on her right side.  I held her hand with my right hand and put my left hand on her head. She was told to look at me.  She turned her head and looked at me.  I locked eyes with her and did not even blink.  I saw the needle about to go in – it poked her ear – I squeezed her and hand and tears filled my eyes.  Evelina did not squeeze my hand back, she not blink her eyes, she did not flinch, no tears in her eyes.  The only evidence that she felt anything was in the photo where I can see that she was biting her lower lip – all while smiling!  I realized if I wasn’t careful I was going to put my fear in to her.  I needed to calm down.  My first born had an earring in her ear.  I said “you have an earring” and she burst in to the biggest smile and we all laughed and praised her for being so brave.

We all switched sides and repeated the whole thing in the right ear.  Only this time, I didn’t squeeze the hand, I didn’t cry, I just held her gaze and was in awe at how amazing she was. Brave, determined, strong and committed.  I wondered how many times in our future would she stand there and look at me strong and determined while I wanted to crumble in to a weeping heap on the floor at the thought of her growing up, growing in to her own person, growing away from me.

This was her choice from the beginning and the whole thing went down on her schedule and her way.  So many obstacles along the way.  Waiting more than a year after making the decision, not getting the earrings she wanted – she just rolled with it and made the best of it because she knew what she wanted done.  End goal = ears pierced.

Afterward, she stood up and looked at herself in the mirror and the look on her face made me cry again, through a huge smile.  She was so pleased with her decision.  She couldn’t wait to show her friends.  After a tough year of being bullied as a kindergartener, I knew how important that statement was for this first grader.

We went for milkshakes and ice cream afterward and she didn’t stop beaming the entire time!  It was a rite of passage.  She had crossed over some imaginary bridge in to a new phase of childhood, of growing up.  I look at her, not only for this decision and how she executed on it, but for so many other reasons, as the rock that she is.  She is an amazing little creature that we created.  I love her, I adore her, I honor her, I cherish her, I believe in her to make choices,  I support her and I will be there holding her hand and head (and hopefully heart) for the rest of her life whenever she feels the need to bite her lower lip to hold back the pain.

~ Photos by Posy Quaterman Photography in Portland, Oregon

12 Responses

  • this is so sweet! and that lip biting picture is adorable. way to go evelina 🙂

    also, i couldn’t agree more about the guns. my daughter ended up having to get her ears pierced twice because the first time was so painful that she took them out. i think i’ll go the route you did with my two younger girls.

  • This is a rite of passage I look forward to doing with my daughter. Personally, I am not into babies having their ears pierced. It’s. It something I could bring my infant daughter to have to go through. I will patiently wait until she lets me know that she is ready and I hope our story will be just as sweet.

    • It will be.

      Wish I would have used “rite of passage” – it’s exactly what this is, and I’m too exhausted and dull brained at the moment to think of such things :/

  • This is so lovely. My sister and I often discuss the piercing of ears. We both had to be in 5th grade and have good grades in order to get ours done. We both find it strange that this rite of passage is in the hands of a teenager at Claire’s Boutique wielding a piercing gun. When I was in late high school, I informed my mother that I was getting my ear cartilage pierced and instead of taking me back to the mall for the piercing gun experience, she researched tattoo parlors in Nashville and we had a lovely experience. I will be doing this same thing for my daughter when she’s in 5th grade and makes good grades.

  • What a beautiful story, thank you for sharing. I, too, have a 7 year old girl and it seems as though overnight she’s crossed that invisible line. The last week of school she left her Care Bear backpack behind because another child told her it was for babies.
    But she is a baby! 😉
    We are so blessed with this little window we have with them. I hope to never squander it.

    • that breaks my heart. Same thing happens with my boys too. Rex even tries to say he doesn’t like Mickey Mouse cartoons because they are “for babies” (his older brother doesn’t like it so . . .) but, in reality, he adores them.

      And you’re right Laura. the window is so small and fleeting.

  • This is a beautiful story. I remember my own little girl bravely getting her ears pierced (at a Wal-mart no less and with that awful “gun”) around the same age – my daughter is 31 now and still loves wearing earrings. So well written, thank you!

    • That’s part of why I liked this story and these photos so much. I think we all either remember this event in our own lives, or ave been on the other side watching our children go through it.

      I’m happy to hear you enjoyed it. Thanks for reading!

  • My body piercer husband will be very pleased to see that people are taking their little girls to a professional for ear piercing and a piercing gun at the chemist! Oh the endless rants he goes on about this!


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