“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face.”
Veronica slips into our room as the sun peeks over the horizon and her room starts to lighten.
This is her morning routine.
She does this every day.
I’m usually up – carving out “me time – so she nudges my husband over and nestles in for a warm snuggle and a light doze.
She does this every day.
Only today wasn’t every day. It was her birthday. Her eighth birthday.
And I was in bed, waiting for her to slink in.
I pulled her to my side, kissed her cheek, and whispered her in ear, “Happy Birthday, honey.”
Her voice bursting with glee, she whispered back, “I’m getting my ears pierced today. I’m getting my ears pierced today.”
The day had come. It was finally here.
Ear piercing was the hot topic all week.
Every morning she counted down – three days, two days, one day until I get my ears pierced. She worked out the earrings – she was going with the same as her bestie, a pink gem in the center with a gold rim. She practiced how it would feel by asking me to pinch her ear lobe “harder.” She talked strategy – “should I play Minecraft while it’s happening? My friend says that helps.” (ha! Any excuse for crafting!)
When did you get your ears pierced? When did (will) your daughter (s)?
It’s a question with a range of answers – months old, school age (generally 7 – 9), when she decides, never. There are cultural, practical and aesthetic reasons and every mother likely has her fixed time.
Eight seemed right to me.
Why? It’s as simple as I was around that age when I got mine pierced.
I don’t remember when exactly, but it was before my First Communion, which would have been in the spring of second grade. My birthday is in July, so I must have been seven, a rising eight year old.
I had mine pierced at Claire’s in the mall. The ear piercing spot was smack in the window. I remember sitting in the chair, noticing the shoppers walking past the store. I remember the stares, the smiles, the people who stopped a moment. I remember feeling nervous and self-conscious.
This was 30 plus years ago, so I didn’t know where to go – is it Claire’s or a tattoo parlor these days? I asked a couple friends where they took their daughters for ear piercing. I got the same answer – Rock Candy. Easy peacy, I made an appointment for noon on her birthday.
T minus zero days and Veronica waltzed into the salon, eager. She picked out her earrings, sat down on the adjacent stool, and prepped a minute with the stylist. She was ready to roll. Stella plopped down on the stool next to her, game to join the party, “I want to get mine pierced too.”
They were mid-conversation about the process when the woman stood to grab two oversized hair clips. In that moment, Veronica’s demeanor changed and weariness crept in:
As the stylist clipped back Veronica’s hair, tears began pooling in her eyes. She locked eyes with me and I followed her gaze to the tweens getting pedicures.
Her shoulders started to shake and she burst into tears.
I pulled her into the bathroom for a tête-à-tête, away from the watchful glances at the kiddie salon. I remember those looks from my day at Claire’s.
I hugged her tight.
I was unsure if we would stay or go. Ultimately, the decision was hers. I wanted her to get her ears pierced if she was ready. If she wasn’t, then we would come back another time.
“I want to do it, but I don’t want to do it. I don’t want to do it, but I don’t want to go,” she said. “I’m so confused.”
“Okay,” I hugged her again and then let go to look her in the face, “What are you afraid of?”
She didn’t answer, looking at me with fearful eyes. She continued to sob, scared. The only time I’ve seen her cry like this was the first time she got her blood drawn to find out the severity of her food allergies.
I got down on my knees.
“If it hurt so much, would your cousin go back a second time?,” I reasoned.
“If it hurt so much, would Kathleen get hers pierced up and down her ears and here?” I pointed to the cartilage close to my ear canal – the tragus.
“If it hurt so much, would I have done it three times and one up high?” I paused for effect, “And back then, they did it one at a time.”
I hit a spot of logic because she turned away and walked to the sink.
She put some water on her face, looked in the mirror, and said, “I’m gonna do it.”
“Okay. You got this,” I said and squeezed her hand. “You can do this! It will be over in a minute.”
She was nervous, but she pushed past her fear.
Here you can tell she’s talking herself off the ledge. Later, she told me her internal dialogue: “You got this Veronica. You got this and then you get a dum-dum.”
The piercers moved in and she wasn’t so sure … luckily they gave her a mini Pillow Pet to squeeze:
The transformation from super fearful to that’s it? was incredible.
She lit up and said, “I’m so grown up.”
And she is …
As we left the salon, she sucked on her dum-dum and held my hand. She shrugged her shoulder and said with confidence, “It’s not true.”
“What’s not true?”
“It doesn’t bleed and bleed and bleed,” she said, revealing the source of her fear.
“Oh,” I wrinkled my nose. “Who said that?”
“I don’t want to tell you.”
“Okay,” I responded. I wrapped my arm around her shoulders and pulled her close to me, “You can if you want to.”
And like that we reached another milestone.