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Mothering › Child Articles › My Daughter Wants Pierced Ears

My Daughter Wants Pierced Ears

My daughter, who’s eleven and a half, is planning to pierce her ears when she is twelve. She’s been begging me for permission for years. I’ve been stalling.

My mother wasn’t allowed to pierce her ears because her father thought it was unseemly. My grandfather–who drank too much and talked too loudly–also believed only prostitutes wore anklettes. But when I was in second grade, my mother and I went together to get our ears pierced. I must have been seven, she was 38.

I’m not sure I even wanted pierced ears. But my mother did. And she wanted company.

A few months later she took me on a work trip to Toronto. We stayed with a friend, a scientist who wore billowy skirts and a scowl. My mom’s colleague had a parrot. I was fascinated by its sharp black talons, riot of colorful feathers, and cheerful, taunting squawks. While my mother worked, I played with the parrot. Our hostess let me take the bird out of its cage. It stood on my shoulder, careful not to dig its talons into my flesh.

But there was one thing the parrot couldn’t resist: the small sparkling gem on the lobe of my ear.

The parrot craned its neck towards my earring, pecking at it with its sharp beak. The first time I giggled. The next time it hurt. The third time I had to take out my earring because it was getting infected. Since the piercing was so new, the damaged skin closed back together to heal itself. I was seven years old and had one earring, like a pirate or a teenaged boy.

Part of me thinks to pierce your ears is a bodily mutilation, which it is. You put a hole in your flesh and insert a metal object into it. When a young man pierces 25 places on his face, most of us find it disturbing or even disgusting. How is putting holes in our ears or our children’s any different?

I re-pierced my ears at the mall years later. A gun at my lobe. Hold still. This will only hurt for a second. On the count of three. One–two–then a sharp and unexpected pain as the stud perforated my flesh.

This time I took better care of my ears. I cleaned the wounds three times a day with alcohol. They crusted over with infection but healed quickly.

I love wearing earrings. I love long dangling ones, big bold hoops, the gold filagree with rubies that my mother bought me for my wedding. My grandfather on my father’s side was a jeweler. Every time I wear a pair of earrings that he gave me I remember the pleasure on his face when he showed me his collection, his pouty lower lip, and the way he loved to make salads.

Still, I can’t help wondering if vanity is a good reason to cause your body pain? If the chance to wear earrings is worth putting holes in your flesh? There are always clip-ons, which is what my mother wore, for special occasions.

I’ve told my daughter that she has to decide who will pierce her ears (a doctor? a teen at the mall?) and she has to pay for the procedure with her own money. She can’t wait. I have beautiful family earrings that will someday be hers. But I look at my daughter’s perfect smooth lobes and I wish she would change her mind.

At what age do you think it’s okay for a parent to pierce a child’s ears? Do you have pierced ears? Do you wish you didn’t? I’m eager to read your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below.

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Tags: ambivalence about piercings, bodily mutilation, how old should your child be when you get her ears pierced?, kids and pierced ears, pierced ears

Comments (68)

Kate (6years old) has said she wants her ears pierced. She is such a tom boy that I am so excited she is considering it. I feel in this case it is her choice. I wouldn't let her have a tattoo before she is 18 but I am comfortable with pierced ears at 6, if that is what she wants.
One of my favorite memories of growing up was going with my mom to get my ears pierced. While some girls went off to sterile looking jewelers in the mall, my mom took me downtown to a tiny and very cluttered shop called Indian Arts and Jewels. The store smelt like Indian cotton and incense. A short Indian man led us into the back where I sat under a bright lamp and he help my lobes between alcohol-soaked balls of cotton. The pain was brief, but a threshold was crossed. I was now--I knew it--a woman. Afterward, we went for Chinese food and as we walked down the windy sidewalk, my new earrings stung in my ears, a persistent reminder of my new identity.
What a lovely story, how old were you then?
I'm 40 and I don't have my ears pierced--my mom didn't, her mom didn't, I just never wanted them bad enough to get over the whole needle-piercing-your-skin-thing. I'd actually like to have pierced ears now, for the first time in my life. I think they're pretty and feminine. ANd now that I have two kids, I want to be able to look pretty and feminine in two seconds flat. But I'm torn. My oldest is a girl. She's 3. I don't want to trigger any yearning for pierced ears in her, because I don't want her to pierce her ears for a long long time. So I'm in limbo. I'm not really adding much to the argument pro or con, just wanted to say that I'm right there with you on the ambivalence.
Eleven and a half. It was the winter of the sixth grade.
The deal around my house was you had to wait until you were 13. I'm not even sure why my parents made that rule--maybe they figured by then we'd figure out whether we really wanted our ears pierced or not? I do have pierced ears but with my kids we've lowered the age to 11. When I took my daughter it ended up being a really cool, bonding type experience but if one of my kids decided she didn't want pierced ears or wanted hers to close up, that would be fine too. I'm not much of a jewelry person I guess.
I did not have pierced ears, and pierced them when my daughters requested piercing. I do not see it as mutilation. I had lost so many earrings in the past, some valuable, that I was happy to have earrings remain in place. I think it's a fun thing, to be celebrated. Why not embrace this event in your daughter's life as something positive?
Oh gosh this is quite a topic for me. I wrote an essay when my daughter got her ears piereced wondering the same questions. Then years later it seemed that the holes were just slightly too high. I don't know if they were done wrong or her ears grew strangely. I feel horrible every time i notice it.
Piercing my ears was fun, if not painful. Everyone said it didn't hurt, but I remember mine not only hurting but bleeding a LOT. But that was back in the day...before the gun shot the hole into your lobe. And I've enjoyed wearing and buying earrings ever since. I think of it less like mutilation and more like adornment. I'm sure once your daughter saves up enough money, it'll be that much more special for her, having paid for it herself.
My mom made me wait until I was 12. I wore earrings (studs only) well into my 20s, but after that ... I sort of lost interest. I still sometimes wear earrings (it's amazing that I can since I almost never do), but I'm just not a jewelry girl. Most often, I wear my wedding ring, and that's it. P.S. I cannot wear earrings that dangle because it makes me feel like there is a bug crawling on my neck, and it freaks me out. My 10-year-old niece wants to get her ears pierced because all her friends have theirs done. My sis is making her wait until age 12. I wanted to get her the clip-on or magnet kind until them, but my sister worried it would open her up to teasing or bullying. So we had a little outing instead for her b-day present last month.
My dad said I had to wait til I was 16 to get my ears pierced. My mom talked him down to 13. My sister got hers at 12, at the same time I got my second hole (at 15). DH and I have discussed it about our 6 week old daughter... Recent studies have shown the possibility of a link between early ear piercing and developing a metal allergy/sensitivity later in life. My husband already has a nickel allergy. So we have decided to not get her ears pierced until she is a teen, and then only if she wants it done...
This is one of those things I also feel quite ambivalent about and some of it is rooted in awareness of cultural differences too - our daughters were born in a culture where schoolgirls are not allowed to wear jewelry (or even makeup) till after high school. It's been quite a change for us now that we are back in the U.S. and my still-very-young daughter notices things like classmates wearing nail polish. Then there are cultures where it's traditional to pierce baby girls' ears. Like Roxanne, I had my ears pierced (probably when I was about 13 or so) and then after a period of wearing earrings, lost interest in them. I haven't worn them regularly in about a decade. I tried some on the other day and one of my holes had closed up. I don't know if I want to wear my earrings badly enough to open that hole up again.
My grandmother, mom, myself, and my daughter all got our ears pierced when we were only a few months old. My grandparents are from Europe and it is family tradition to get a baby girls ears pierced. In Belgium, where they were raised, gold and diamonds are what they invested in (I guess it was better then stocks) so gold earrings was the first investment of little girls. I am proud to hold up their tradition and loved picking out my daughters first pair of earrings and then keeping them in the jewelry box with the other "first earrings" of the past generations to pass down to her.
I was planning on waiting with my just turned 8 1/2 year old, till she was older, but had a hard time with the argument because my mom pierced my ears when I was 6 months (it was typical in Europe to do that 40 years ago). Recently, as she is beginning to go through the 9 year change, she is beginning to grieve the leaving behind of childhood and has talked about not wanting to grow up. While I'm ok with her grieving, I also want to highlight to her, that while we can certainly feel that way about the past, we can also look forward to the future. To affirm the sense of "yes, there are many wonderful experiences waiting for you...such as piercing your ears". So, her 'gift' for her half birthday was finding out that we are saying yes to earrings and will take the next 6 months to find a reputable piercer, and earrings. She is wanting a pair exactly like mine - the ones I wear are the ones that were put into my ear at 6 months of age. I'm extremely conscious of the whole oversexualization of young girls, and will put my foot down on other matters, but this, I really felt was symbolic of leaving behind something, and looking forward to the future.
I had wanted pierced ears as a child, but my mother said I needed to wait until I was 9 years old. Then, about 2 months before my 9th birthday, my mother surprised me with a trip to the jewelry store. I was so excited to finally get my wish--and early, too. The bigger surprise? She sat down right after me to have hers done. It remains a lovely memory for me.
Hmmm... my daughter's 13 and this topic has come up a few times. She hasn't been adamant about getting them, though, so we haven't really pursued it. I'd let her if she really wanted them; the husband is less enthusiastic. I got pierced ears as a teenager and am glad I did it. I didn't wear them for years, but the holes were still there so I poked my way back through and was able to wear them again with re-piercing.
I'm one to talk, having pierced ears AND tattoos... but I do think that little diamond studs or super-thin silver hoops are adorable and classy. I say let her do it!
I was around your daughter's age when I got my ears pierced. My mother knew that middle school kids will do crazy things (like having a friend pierce your ears in the bathroom, which some of my friends actually did), so she wanted me to get my ears pierced in a more hygienic environment. My dad was a doctor, so he scoped out piercing places in advance to make sure it was cleaning its instruments and all that jazz (Mom didn't want to come). He made sure I cleaned my ears thoroughly, so I never had any problems. BUT in college, I decided to get my belly button pierced, which in retrospect was a mistake. That area is VERY prone to infection and takes a long time to heal, so even though I was careful about cleaning my belly button, it got infected and I had to take out the ring (actually, my roommate threatened to drag me to the ER if I didn't take it out, she was very worried about the infection spreading). My mom was very upset when she found out about the belly ring about six months after I'd gotten it, but my Dad just shrugged and said he'd have taken me and quizzed the place about their cleaning procedures if I'd asked him. Now I have a little hole in my belly button (even though it's mostly closed and I can't wear a ring anymore). Unlike tattoos, which you can get lasered off, those little holes never quite go away. Not to freak you out, Jennifer, as I'm sure you have several more years before your daughter starts wanting other piercings.
My mother forced me to have my ears pierced at 7 yrs old, for my birthday. I still vividly remember begging and pleading her to not make me and bawling my eyes out and even throwing up. She just scolded me for it. She tore in to me and told me how horrible I was and I am supposed to WANT my ears pierced and to shut up and get it done. I was held down and they held my head in place and forced me to have it done. I am 40 now and never wear earrings. With my own daughter, I decided it was her body, her choice. I have had my own sister try to tell my daughter that there is something wrong with her for not wanting her ears pierced. My daughter is 14 and has no intention. I am open to whatever she wants and tell her so. If she wants them pierced, I will take her in. If not, fine too. She does not. I always cringe when a mother posts pictures of her baby girl with ears pierced or tells about. It just makes me cry for that poor baby who has had control of her own body taken from her. I think it is selfish of the parents and those babies should have the right to grow up and make that decision for themselves.
I had to wait until I was 13 to get my ears pierced. I have a grown son, who was never the type of kid to pierce anything, so this issue was never an issue for me. I suppose, if I did have a daughter, I would simply have her wait until she was old/responsible enough to be able to handle the hygiene aspects of having pierced ears. To avoid infections, etc. Great column, Jennifer! Loved the part about your grandfather (who thought only prostitutes wore ankle bracelets).
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