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