rite of passage

The Bee is turning 8 next week. As part of her pre-birthday celebration, I took her to get her ears pierced today. She’s been agitating for an ear-piercing for several years now, but I made up my mind a long time ago to do it when she was 8, and I stuck to my guns, despite the heavy lobbying.

I got an extra set of holes put in my head, too, partly to show her that it would be okay (I went first).

I remember vividly going to get my ears pierced for the first time. My mother insisted that I wait until I was 13–and she was 39 then, and got her ears pierced for the first time when I did. My mother told me then that when she was a girl, no “nice” girl had pierced ears. I think it freaked her out that I was still insistent on doing it, and I can’t now imagine what possessed her to do it after living without pierced ears for so long.

The Bee and I talked about that a little bit today, although I struggled to explain what made a “nice” girl nice, in the 1950s. There was a line, and the kid ahead of us was an 18-month (or so) boy. I told her that when I was growing up, it was very odd for boys to have pierced ears, just like it was odd for “nice” girls of her grandmother’s generation to have them. She asked me if I would let the Potato get his ears pierced, when he turns 8, and I told her I would. It was an interesting exercise in changing social mores.

Seeing that boy did make me wonder, though, about what the norm is becoming about the age of piercing. I know that I’m fairly conservative (on this, if nothing else) for our community–the Bee might be the only girl in her class who didn’t have pierced ears last week. I felt pretty strongly that she should be old enough to take care of them herself, thus the wait.

If you have a kid with pierced ears, how old was s/he when you got it done? If your kid doesn’t have them, why not? When (if ever) will you do it?

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September 23, 2007. growing up.

17 Comments

  1. Kimberly replied:

    I remember hours after Diva Girl was born, talking to another new mom on the maternity ward…she was wondering exactly how long after leaving the hospital she had to wait before piercing her new daughter’s ears. I’ll confess, I was horrified. It just seemed wrong, to inflict that choice on a child. Like it would be claiming possession of that tiny body by putting a personal stamp on it. Personally, I felt that that body no longer belonged to me, and I had no right to alter it for strictly decorative purposes without its owner’s consent.

    So I set the line at 5, and like you I held to it in the face of hard lobbying. On Diva Girl’s fifth birthday, I offered to take her to get her ears done. She turned me down. Eventually, she got them pierced. She was 6 3/4 and it was the week before starting grade 2. It was a completely spur of the moment decision, and completely her choice.

    The Zen Baby desperately wants pierced ears just like her big sister, but once again, I’m holding firm at 5. It may not be completely informed consent at that age, but it’s certainly voluntary at the very least.

  2. Jennifer replied:

    I must live in a more conservative community than you two. I don’t think I know any 5-year-olds with pierced ears and it’s not typical for boys of any age to pierce their ears. My 5-year-old son loves my necklaces and I think he’d like one, too, but we’ve never seen another boy wear one — I might be reading into it, but I think he considers it something that girls do. At any rate he’s never asked.

    Like you, Landismom, I won’t let my daughter pierce her ears until she can take care of them herself. Mostly because I’m lazy.

  3. Kate replied:

    Here in Spain usually the ear piercing is done right at the hospital when the baby is born (girls only!) I guess this is so people can immediately tell the gender when they look at a bay? Or because people think that it hurts less to have it done as a newborn? I don’t know, but if Baby #3 is a girl, we are not having her ears pierced until, as you say, she is old enough to take care of them herself.

  4. Suzanne replied:

    I would like to wait till age 8 or so. I had to wait till I was 11, and that seemed too old for me at the time. I haven’t paid too much attention to the age at which ears are being pierced in my area. I probably will once grade school hits!

  5. Jeff replied:

    My gal, now 3.5, does not have her ears pierced and has never brought it up. I am hoping to have her wait until she is old enough to take care of her ears, herself – that is a pretty good and sensical rule to follow. Who knows, maybe she will never want them pierced!

  6. Anjali replied:

    Mine were 3 months. And really, there’s nothing to do to take care of them. I just cleaned them with the stuff they gave me for a week (easy to do with babies who have barely just found their hands) and I’ve hardly touched them since. My girls love that they have them, but don’t really change them out often, so it’s not too big a deal around here.

  7. elise replied:

    Erin was 9 years old and in third grade. I had told her that she could decide when she was ready. I told her she would be ready when she could handle the pain because once they do one ear you need to do the second knowing that it hurts a little bit. I had told her the pain was not very significant and she was prepared enough that she didn’t mind it at all. By this time she was old enough to take care of them by herself. Sarah, who will avoid pain at all costs and is not a girly girl will probably never have them done. Then again she may change her mind. She’ll probably go goth on me and get piercings all over herself! Ha Ha!

  8. Susan replied:

    I’d been thinking 10, myself, on the ‘take care of them yourself’ plan, although my views are also shaped by the fact that it hurt like heck when I got mine pierced.

  9. MetroDad replied:

    I’m fairly conservative about this too, LM. I’m not sure what the appropriate age will be but eight sounds good to me. Personally, I’m always weirded out a little when I see tiny infants or toddlers with pierced ears.

  10. alala replied:

    Catholic families very often pierce their daughters’ ears when they are babies. Tradition, I guess. I probably would have done it, seems simple enough to just get it over with, and she could decide for herself whether she wants to wear earrings later. But I only had sons. I don’t really see pierced ears as a significant intrusion on a child’s autonomy – certainly not as significant as, say, circumcising a boy.

  11. Procrastamom replied:

    Ashley had hers done at four. Richard took her to the mall one day without me and she asked to have it done, so he let her. Andie was about nine and she spent her own birthday money to have it done.

    Like you, my Mom had her ears pierced for the first time when I did at seven years old (wait, does that make sense? I was seven, she was [takes off shoes and socks and borrows fingers from colleague also…28 plus 7, carry the zero]= 35). She didn’t take well to it and let them close up after a year or two. I still have the holes in my ears, but I rarely wear earrings as I usually don’t remember to.

  12. guerson replied:

    In Brazil baby girls are also pierced when they are born. It’s done right at the hospital. I had never met a girl that didn’t have pierced ears until I moved to Canada… If I had a baby girl I probably would pierce her ears at birth too… don’t see anything wrong with that.

  13. CanadianCarrie replied:

    I was 7 when my dad took me to get mine done. I think I will wait till my dd is 6 or 7 (she turns 5 in 3 weeks). She has been asking about it though, but I will be firm on this too. 5 is too young to know how to take care of them herself.

  14. Jody replied:

    Oddly enough, none of the kids has asked to have their ears pierced yet. There’s a pretty large contingent of Latina girls in their classes, and it’s the tradition in most of those families to have babies’ ears pierced, but so far, there’s just been no interest.

    I had my ears pierced when I was 5, at my mother’s insistence, just before a family wedding and just after a disastrous haircut. So at this point (the kids are six), I’d be fine with it. Worst-case scenario, one of them only gets one ear done, they either leave it and do the other later, or they take it out and re-do it when they’re older.

    I had a second set of holes done when I was 13, but I stopped wearing studs and now they’ve partially grown closed. I almost never wear earrings myself, I wonder if that’s why the girls haven’t shown much interest yet.

  15. Narya replied:

    I was 10 or 11 when I had my ears pierced, and my sister (who was 17 mos. younger than me) had hers done at the same time. My (Italian) grandmother had had hers done when she was very young, I think, but my mom was an adult–might even had had it done after me and sis. It varies so much–by culture, for example–but I think the taking-care-of-it-yourself is the most useful guideline.

  16. Abigail replied:

    My mom made me wait until I was 12, and it was BRUTAL! I was the only girl without her ears pierced, and in today’s society kids can be mean. I was constantly getting asked “why aren’t your ears peirced?” I never saw the point in making me wait. My daughter is 5 1/2 and has just in the last day or so asked me about it. Just before this she was totally against it which made it easy. My opinion and again it’s only MY opinion is when they want them let them try it it’s not a naval piercing or tattoo. If they don’t like them, take them out. As far as “being able” to “take care of them”, how hard is it? Pour a little solution on in the bathtub and turn them. If they aren’t able to do this themselves the parent can easily do it or remind them.

  17. M replied:

    Yes, it’s the custom among Latin Americans for girls’ ears to be done on the maternity ward; in Spanish you literally say, having the holes done (like as if it’s a foregone conclusion, almost).

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