Friday, July 26, 2013

Rites of passage don't always go smoothly

From today's Briefing:

Out of nowhere, my needle-averse child asked to get her ears pierced.

The signs were all there, I suppose. Every few weeks, I’d hear about another friend with pierced ears. She started taking more interest in my earrings. She received a doll for her birthday with pierced ears.

Still, I was taken aback when Katie said she would willingly allow someone to poke holes in her ears.

This is the child who melts down at the mention of a doctor’s visit because of the slight chance that shots might be involved. The child who requires sedation for basic dental work. The same child who screamed so loudly for so long during allergy testing that the veteran nurse opted to stop testing halfway through.

I didn’t try to dissuade her from the piercing, but I did encourage her to talk to friends about the experience. All of them insisted that it didn’t hurt.

Sunday afternoon we arrived at the mall. We found the accessories shop. Katie selected a pair of sparkly blue starter earrings. She climbed into the tall chair, her back to the window that faces heavy mall traffic.

The ear-piercing specialist assembled tools. The meltdown began.

“Oh, I really want to do this,” Katie said as she cried, “but I’m really freaked out.”

The young woman began working to soothe my frightened child.

“It won’t hurt. It just stings a little.” That didn’t help at all.

“Let me explain what’s going to happen.” Her explanation escalated the meltdown.

“What is your favorite animal?”

“A [sob] baby [sob] harp [sob] seal.”

“I don’t even know what that is. Do you like puppies?”

Katie nodded.

The young woman left and returned, this time with another employee and a handful of small stuffed animals from stock in the back — an octopus, turtle and puppy. Alas, no baby harp seal.

The idea: Katie would clutch these treasures to take her mind off the impending piercing. The reality: Not even the world’s cutest, fluffiest critter would convince her to relax.

Every now and then I would offer phrases like, “You’re very brave” and “You don’t have to do this. I mean, I support you if you want to, but you don’t have to.” I offered to hold her hands. I offered to sing and dance (and I am good at neither). I promised a treat — any treat — if she would allow the piercing to happen.

I did not mention the folks on the other side of the window, who were stopping to stare and point and talk about freaked-out Katie.

After about 20 minutes of crying, screaming, cajoling and negotiating, Katie finally relented.

I moved out of the way. The earring specialists moved in. Katie relaxed her shoulders slightly.

One piercer to the other: “One, two, three.”


Scream. Lots of screams. More crying.

But the tiny gemstone daisies were in place.

I stopped holding my breath. I told Katie that she is beautiful and brave. I took a photo. I took a couple more, hoping for one in which she wasn’t screaming.

We paid for the half hour of torture, left the shop and headed for a smoothie stand to celebrate.

Katie says she made the right choice. She’s been found a few times this week in front of the mirror, admiring the sparkle. She’s diligent about applying solution to her ears and twisting the posts three times daily.

Every now and then, out of nowhere, she’ll say, “I can’t believe I have earrings.”

Neither can I, child.

Tyra Damm is a Briefing columnist. Email her at

Before the drama begins

Many tearful minutes later

1 comment:

Kim C. in NC said...

How brave of Katie to go through with it! I know that she must be very proud of herself. Congratulations to Katie!