On Saturday I took my eight-year-old to get her ears pierced. She had been noticing a couple of her friend's ear piercings for a couple years, and I had told her that if she swam across the pool freestyle she could get it done. After our swim lessons this summer, she's swimming confidently across the pool, breathing and everything.
As we entered the mall, her hand tucked safely into mine, I started to get a little panicky. (The mall and I have a history of mutual hatred, but I watched a guy at Walmart pierce a girl's ears and decided that was definitely not the place to go for ear piercing.) I began to think about my little girl wanting to come to the mall, and dealing with peer pressure, and going through puberty. I almost grabbed her hand and ran out.
"You're too little!" I wanted to shout at her. But I was the one who made the promise and she fulfilled the terms, so I tried to keep smiling as we walked past trendy stores and trendy people.
Suddenly, I felt like I was pushing my child to grow-up too soon. Why had I ever brought up ear piercing? Why was I pushing her into the world of self-decoration so early? Wasn't ear-piercing just another time and money-consuming activity that objectifies women?
"Will it hurt?" She asked me as we passed a cell-phone hawker, stylishly dressed with a Fossil watch and sharp haircut.
I shrugged, "Yes. But not too bad."
She pursed her lips and looked worried, squeezing my hand.
"You don't have to if you don't want to."
"Will you go first?" Her cornflower blue eyes looked up at me widely.
"Watch where you're walking. Yes. I'll go first." I had said that I would re-pierce my grown-in ears when she did hers. I stifled my feminist voice and decided to keep with my re-pierce plan, because I eventually want to cut my hair super short and earrings can soften that a little. And my little girl wasn't pondering the social and political implications of ear piercing. I just needed to relax. It was just for fun, right?
"Is it like a shot? Or a beesting?"
I stopped in front of a shoe store, loudly blaring a song about dancing all night. "Here, let me show you again." I took her earlobe in between my fingers and pinched my nail into it, kind of hard.
She grimaced. "That's not bad."
We entered Claires and watched another girl get her ears pierced and checked out the available earrings. She choose blue flowers and I chose small diamonds. The chatty clerk told us a story about a girl who came in that had lied to her mom about having her ears pierced before. And then, quickly, my ears were pierced again.
I can't decide if I like them or not. I've had my ears pierced before, but let them grow in. It's an easy way to look like a girl without too much effort.
My eight-year-old sat in the chair and tensed her shoulders and closed her eyes. The two clerks closed in on her and on the count of three, she was pierced. She is thrilled at her new earrings and can't wait to get "dangly" ones.
I can't decide how I feel about this "milestone." I didn't consider any of the implications of pushing her to puberty or teaching her about beauty until we were there in the mall. And by then, I felt like I had walked out on the tightrope, and the crowd was already roaring.
This is the problem with my parenting. I don't think things through until it's often too late and then I think, "Wait a minute! This doesn't fit in with my life philosophy. I object!" But I'm already sitting in the chair with an ear-piercing gun to my head. I have thought about tatoos though, and my answer is definitely no. I don't care how many times she swims across the pool.