The milestone I never saw coming

Today took me a little by surprise. In retrospect it shouldn’t have but sometimes I get so busy with life that I don’t take the time to really focus on the now.

It used to be the case in most Indian families that little girls would get their ears pierced very young. By very young I mean under a year old and before you get all horrified about that, the reasons are that it’s easier to care for a healing piercing in a little baby than an active, often dirty, toddler. In Indian culture, piercing your ears is as normal as cutting your hair. It is not seen as body jewelry or cosmetic alteration. It’s just done. It’s when you start adding on to that initial piercing that eyebrows start raising.

I never gave a second thought to this whole situation until I had my daughter. When she was still just a few months old, a few of my aunties asked me when I would pierce her ears and you know what? I didn’t want to. Not because she was too little (though I also thought she was too little) but mostly because it was her body and I didn’t want to alter it without her permission.

My parents had pierced my ears a few times when I was little because I allegedly (thank goodness it wasn’t as easy then to document stuff) refused to pierce my second ear after the first one hurt so much and screeched like a banshee. I think I took the earring out and the hole closed and had to be pierced again. I must ask my mum about this. Anyway, it was when I got to University that I started adding to the collection. I pierced my earlobe a second time and then the top cartilage of both ears. Somewhere in that time zone I added a belly ring. There is such a feeling of freedom and independence that came with it. It was empowering. I wanted that for my daughter. I wanted her to decide what she did with her body and then to own that decision. Jarrod and I decided that once she showed an interest in piercing her ears we would chat to her about it and then set a date but without any pressure. As I type this I realise that we were probably overthinking this whole situation but that’s what first time parents do I guess.

Anyway, she didn’t give two hoots about earrings until a few months ago. Ok that’s not true, I bought her cute, clip on, Claire’s animal earrings when she was two but they hurt her ears so she didn’t wear them too long. Plus she was two so they were lost in a week. Recently though, she had been asking to wear earrings so we decided to make it something to look forward to and made her 5th birthday the time to do it.

My original plan was to take her to a jewellery store the day before her birthday and get her ears pierced then go for cake and tea to celebrate. Instead, I decided to take her today, while we’re in Durban, so that I can take her to someone that I know is gentle and good with kids. To make it more special, my sister and I said that we would also pierce our ears since we had both let our second lobe piercings close ages ago. It was a proper piercing party!

Before we left for the salon, she was SO amped. There wasn’t the slightest bit of hesitation and she was hyper with excitement. It was wonderful. When we got there, all three of us picked which stud we wanted and just by chance we ended up all picking the same style. Lee went first, then myself then my brave little girl. She didn’t make a peep. I’m not sure if the adrenaline was keeping the pain at bay or if she just has a really high pain tolerance level but she is the bravest girl I know. Did I ever tell you about the time she split her chin open coming down the fireman’s pole and needed three stitches? Not a tear was shed. By her anyway. I swallowed a few tears as she was being injected and sewn up.

As I admired her very pretty little ears, I realized that this was the first step to my baby no longer really being my baby. Next year she starts ‘big school’ and I just know that our relationship will change. The position of her Best Friend will no longer be mine to claim. Those tiny little studs are her first step to my little girl finding her feet in a world I can no longer control for her. I hope she ventures in feeling as confident and empowered as she did today. And if she doesn’t, I’ll always be there to fill that Best Friend spot.

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