For months she’d been asking to get her ears pierced. Her sister did it for her 8th birthday two years ago without incident. A quick visit to a local retail chain and, click, click, sister was done. On to a lifetime of accessorizing her earlobes with assorted enamel emojis, sure to be followed by dangly odd creations in her teens, and someday a couple of tasteful, inherited pearls.
Little sister’s 8th birthday was a week behind us when we arrived at the mall. The piercing had to wait until the soccer season wrapped up. We scooted straight from the last game to the mall, excitement building as we discussed the relative merits of a simple gold ball vs. a heart or star. The non-ball shapes would be easier to turn which anyone who’s ever been pierced knows is an important task. As the wound heals you don’t want adhesion.
“What is adhesion, mama? Is it painful? Will it hurt when they put the earrings in, will it hurt afterward? Is it like a shot or a little pinch? On a scale of one to a billion just how much will it hurt.”
Trouble was brewing. Still we made it to the store and completed the paperwork. We watched as two slightly older junior cheerleaders with large bows in their hair sat still while bezeled cubic zirconias were plunged into their lobes. Click, wince, click. Click, “that wasn’t so bad,” click.
No tears. Big smiles, as big as their bows.
Then it was our turn. She sat in the high chair, like a bar stool, looking like she could use some liquid courage. Her eyes, pupils now swollen to twice their usual size, were darting all over the place.
“It’s okay, kiddo. It’s going to be fine. Do you still want to do this?”
She did. But she needed a minute.
That minute turned to 36. 36 minutes of a patient latex-gloved piercer standing by while my poor girl alternated between deep breaths and whispered self-encouragement.
“You can do this. No biggie. You can do this. But I don’t want to do this. But I want to do this. You can do this. Don’t be scared, don’t be scared, don’t be scared.“
And so it went for 8 more minutes. 44 minutes of sitting in that high chair. 44 minutes of me working through my own waves of guilt, frustration, love, pride, and acceptance.
Do I hold her down?
We should go.
Let’s give her another minute.
I’m pretty sure every minute I let her sit here is an hour of therapy I’ll need to pay for some day.
I should tell her to suck it up.
This is what she wants.
It’s her body.
It’s not my choice.
It’s not anyone else’s choice but hers.
We left at the 44 minute mark. Her ears bearing small black Sharpie dots where earrings might have been.
I paid for the earrings because the hypoallergenic case had been opened.
She says she wants to try again when she’s 9.