Wednesday, May 19th, 2010
On when to pierce ears
A friend sent me the following e-mail because being a blogger makes me an expert at dispensing sage advice:
I briefly spoke with [your wife] about this today, but I was wondering if it would be an appropriate topic of discussion for your blog. I’ve asked my friends, but am hoping for a slightly broader view, even though I fear your readers may side with my hubby. [Oops, I guess I'm not a friend, just a casual acquaintance, and she wants your sage advice.]
Dilemma: My 4-year-old old daughter, whose first year of preschool has brought many challenges home, wants to get her ears pierced.
Arguments against: She’s only (almost) 4-years-old! She shouldn’t be allowed to decide. It’s giving into peer pressure/societal pressures. She’s only 4! She’s only 4!
Arguments for: She should be allowed to make decisions (if she even goes through with it, which is very likely she won’t) about her own body. The more you oppose something, the more desirable it becomes to those with that personality (which she has), and that this is an acceptable way of expressing herself at this time — being better than nail painting, where the polish remover is basically cancer in a bottle.
Background: As a mother, I have a terrible time making decisions. I am utterly incapable of making decisions for myself, often deferring to my older son and almost 4-year-old for answers about basic things — What restaurant should we go to? What do you think we should have for dinner? …
(I should mention, I am great at making decisions for others though.) I have discovered this is the result of never being allowed to ever make any decisions, ever, as a child. All decisions were made for me. I hope to correct this trait in my own children, so they may avoid this problem. Therefore standing idly by while relying on a 4-year-old to decide whether or not to pierce her ears. What’s your opinion?
My response (remember, she’s a friend, no really, a friend):
You failed to explain for which popular reason body modification is being sought:
- To make your daughter more physically attractive to potential suitors.
- To commemorate your daughter’s feat of having sailed around the world.
- To mark your daughter’s having crossed the equator.
- To offer the earrings as payment for a proper burial in the event your daughter’s body is found washed ashore.
- To denote her sexual orientation.
- To complete the Nugegoda rite of passage into adulthood, and accordingly, to indicate your child’s gender identity as male.
Every family is different, but in our family we have decided the 13th birthday is the appropriate time for teenage boys to impregnate our daughter, and we won’t enlist her in the merchant marines until her 14th birthday.
[Update edit: My wife says I need to explain that the Nugegoda thing I mentioned occurs in Sri Lanka, and that in most Southeast Asian countries males get pierced as they pass into adulthood. This point segues into the following leap in logic.]
As for whether she wants to undergo gender modification surgery, well, that’s why we’re saving coins in a giant 10-gallon water jug right now for her “Mexico trip.” People don’t have to travel to France for that anymore. She should have enough money saved up by her 16th birthday, and if she chooses against the surgery, she will have plenty of money to pierce many other parts of her body and afford a talented tattoo artist to make her really pretty for the alpha males on prom night.
To answer your other questions, your family should dine at Oriental Buffet and you should eat chow mein noodles, fried rice, batter-dipped pineapple chicken, egg rolls and an authentic Chinese soft drink from a soda dispenser, topped off with an individually wrapped homemade fortune cookie.
Now blog readers, what’s your opinion? And to address your first point of outrage, I teach my kids that they don’t have to modify themselves to be beautiful. A piercing should simply be unnecessary to her concept of personal beauty. That doesn’t stop my daughter from wanting to wear certain clothes or have her hair a certain way, but make-up, earrings and nail polish are absolutely off the table until she’s a teenager, and I can only hope she thinks better of them at that time.
Once in a while we veto her clothing choices for reasons that escape her (be it pants she’s outgrown or a skirt that is now too short so it must be worn with tights or jeans). The core issue is that it’s my job to provide parental guidance and part of that guidance includes Mom and Dad’s concepts of appropriate public presentation — with some wiggle room and some solid boundaries.