A little over a year ago, Helena became obsessed with getting her ears pierced. She had never expressed any interest in her ears before, except for the time she almost severed one, so we were caught off guard. She went to bed one night as a totally normal six year old child and woke up the next morning, ripping her ears off her head and throwing them in my general direction, begging me to pierce them with some 14K gold.
I told her that I had to discuss it with Daddy and seeing as how Daddy thought hammering a nail into a perfectly good wall was the epitome of desecration, it wasn’t likely that he was going to jump up and down enthusiastically about hammering anything into perfectly good set of ear lobes. But I told her I’d try and in the meantime, would she please stick her ears back on her head because she was bound to lose them and holding up flashcards whenever I needed to yell HELENA, CLEAN YOUR ROOM THIS INSTANT wasn’t my idea of a good time. It’s so much more fun to yell when someone can actually hear you.
From that morning on, Helena became physically incapable of having any kind of conversation that did not revolve around her cartilage.
Me: What does everyone want for dinner?
Nate: Don’t care.
Zoe: Italian chicken, garlic bread and salad.
Helena: My ears pierced.
Me: Hey peanut, how did school go today?
Helena: Horrible. I can’t see the board ‘cuz my ears aren’t pierced.
Me: Helena, are these jeans clean or dirty?
Helena: Where they on my floor?
Me: Yes. Why?
Helena: ‘Cuz if they’re on my floor, then that means I want my ears pierced. But if they’re on my bed, then that means I want my ears pierced.
I had no problems with Helena getting her ears pierced. Zoe had her ears pierced when she was four and I myself have had pierced ears for … let’s see, how old am I … oh, that’s right. FOREVER.
I tried to convince Nate, but it all fell on deaf ears. Deaf, unpierced, undefiled ears, to be precise.
Me: Nate, Helena really wants her ears pierced.
Me: OK, can we agree to discuss this without resorting to Nate-isms?
Me: I’m serious. Can we?
Me: Stop it.
Me: She really wants her ears pierced.
Me: It’s all she’s wants for her birthday.
Nate: Don’t care.
Me: Zoe got hers pierced when she was four.
Nate: Don’t care.
Me: I got mine pierced a hundred years ago.
Nate: Doesn’t matter.
Me: How old were your sisters when they got theirs pierced?
Nate: Don’t know.
Me: Were they younger than ten?
Nate: Don’t remember.
Me: Did you develop an allergy to pronouns when I wasn’t looking?
Nate: Don’t think so.
Me: How about you throw one in there, every once in awhile, just to keep it interesting?
Me: Getting back to Helena …
Me (yelling): You’re not a girl! You don’t understand!
Nate: Doesn’t matter.
Me (hollering): Girls get their ears pierced! It’s what we do! It’s our God given right! It’s in the Constitution or Bible or something like that!
Blink, blink, stare.
Me: OK, OK, maybe not, but …
Nate: She is too young. They’ll just get infected and it’ll all be for nothing. When she’s an adult, she can make an informed decision about her health and body. She is too young to be caring about what her ears look like anyway. She should care about the inside, not the outside. That’s all ear piercing is … vanity. If we allowed it, we’d be teaching her to be vain.
Me: And she doesn’t get that every time you hold up traffic to comb your hair?
Nate (defensively): That’s not true.
Me: Excuse me, have we met?
Nate: It doesn’t matter. The answer is still NO.
Me: Can we at least talk about it again?
Nate (resigned): Do I have a choice?
I worked on Nate non-stop for several weeks, going so far as to serve him a piece of meatloaf shaped into a reasonable facsimile of Helena’s head, complete with one pearl onion on each side. In the meantime, Helena busied herself by digging a pit of despair in our back yard.
Nate cried uncle a couple of days before Helena’s seventh birthday. So off to the mall we went.
Helena had no clue what was in store when we slowed down in front of Piercing Pagoda and casually asked her what she wanted more than anything in the world.
“A puppy!” she cried.
We stared at her.
“Try again” I urged.
“Ummm, a baby brother?” she guessed.
It was only when we turned her around to face the display case filled with hundreds of earrings that it dawned on her that her prayers had been answered, albeit in a different pecking order than she had let on for the previous FOREVER.
Still, she was very happily shocked out of her mind.
I bet this is what I would look like if my kids ever did what I asked the first time I asked it. If I ever find out, I’ll let you know.
I want this one … no, no, this one. Oh, can I have this one? How about this? Can I get two different kinds? OK, OK, I want this one. No, no, no … wait … this one! Definitely this one!
THIS IS THE ONE I’VE WAITED FOR MY WHOLE ENTIRE LIFE.
I was not about to blow sunshine up my own daughter’s bottom. I did not mince words. I told her it was going to hurt. I told her it was OK to be scared and that she could leave at any time, that there was no shame in going home with ears looking exactly as they had that morning.
She just smiled and giggled.
And then she told me to put my big girl panties on and suck it up and stop being such a wussy baby.
Not really. But I bet she was thinking that. She’s just too polite to say it out loud. I raised her right.
At this moment, Helena was thinking that going home with naked ears wasn’t such a bad idea after all. At this moment, she was experiencing second, third and fourth thoughts. I gave her another chance to change her mind. But she’d sooner kiss a camel than change her mind.
You know what?
Pucker up, camel.
Because let me tell you, at this point, I’d have laid a big, sloppy, wet one on you if it meant she wouldn’t go through with it and she’d climb off that chair and go home with ear lobes naked as the day they were born. As much as I went to bat for Helena so that she could even have the opportunity to sit in that chair, the part of me that can’t bear to see my child in pain or nervous or scared was shrieking ARE YOU SERIOUSLY GOING TO LET HER DO THIS? WHAT THE HELL KIND OF MOTHER ARE YOU? FREAK.
Cringe. Bite lip. Hold breath. Cringe. Bit lip harder. Squeeze eyes shut. Forget to breath. Cringe. Whimper.
Watching your daughter get her ears pierced is mentally and emotionally exhausting.
All done! My little sweetie. She did everything in her power to hold it together, but the tears came spilling over within seconds of taking this shot. I just didn’t have it in me to stick my camera in her face and document it for posterity.
Sorry, posterity. I do have limits. I’ll make out with a camel, but I’m not a complete, raving lunatic.
Just in case there was any doubt.
Nothing calms down tears like a big, tight, squeeze from Daddy. I know, Helena. I love those big, tight, squeezes from Daddy too. They make the world a safer place.
And to his credit, Nate did not whisper SEE? I TOLD YOU SO! I TOLD YOU IT WASN’T WORTH IT. SEE WHAT YOU’VE DONE? NOW SHE’S CRYING. AND HER PERFECTLY GOOD EAR LOBES HAVE HOLES IN THEM. ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?
Oh, I’m sure he was thinking it. I’d stake my Dansko shoes on it. But he didn’t say it. I raised him right too.
Well, not really, seeing as how I didn’t raise him at all. Because if I did, that would just be … weird. Blech.
Have I mentioned that I look upon my Dansko shoes as my third child? They’re kind of my favorite because they didn’t have to be yanked out of my uterus and they don’t leave dirty clothes on the family room floor.
Helena quickly recovered and then proved she was every inch my daughter by completely forgetting what had transpired thirty seconds before. I just knew she had my DNA somewhere in her little body.
I wish my DNA extended to her ears though, because whereas mine have been pierced for, let’s see … how old am I again? Oh, that’s right … ETERNITY, Helena’s only lasted two months before infection set in and the earrings were removed.
And I took the I told you so that came flying out of Nate’s mouth and I buried it in the backyard where it was never heard from again.
Helena is now perfectly happy to be running around with naked ear lobes and while I’m disappointed in the outcome, I’m looking on the bright side. Like, for instance, the very real likelihood that she won’t be waking up anytime soon, tossing her nose or eyebrow or tongue or lip or nipple or bellybutton or any other body part in my general direction, begging for them to be pierced.
Now if she wakes up before she’s an adult with her own health insurance and throws her ankle or lower back or boob or wrist or foot or some other body part in my general direction, begging for it to be tattooed, that will be another story entirely.
One that definitely has the potential of me french kissing a gangly, seven foot, two-toed, cud-chewing mammal that is prone to spitting.
And no, his name is not Nate.