My baby just turned six and for months all she has been talking about is getting her ears pierced.
“We’ll make it so fun,” I promised her. “We will do it on your birthday, just like my mom did with me.”
I remember getting my ears pierced; how scared I was but how much I wanted those earrings to glisten upon my lobes. It was a special day for my mom and I– a story she loves to tell even today. I wanted to have that with my daughter, too. It could be a tradition!
The day of little P’s birthday was rough; we had a really busy weekend in which she had had too little sleep and too much sugar. By time her birthday rolled around, she was toast. But we forged ahead anyway.
Originally, the idea was to take her to tattoo/piercing parlor so that it would be done right. But there was only one place close to us and we had the unfortunate timing to drive by when there were three cop cars parked out front, arresting someone at the entrance.
It wasn’t exactly the heartfelt scenario I had in my head for our piercing experience. So instead, we opted for the mall.
This was a mistake for a number of reasons: all of our children get hangry, and they get hangry fast. The whole thing was a disaster– she was too tired, hangry, and scared to let the eleven-year-old behind the counter pierce her ears. So we promised we would come back after lunch.
My husband took her back a second time but his good intentions fell to the wayside. She was exhausted and couldn’t commit to getting the earrings put in but did not want to leave empty handed. He ended up carrying her out of the store, kicking and screaming, after an hour and a half of failed attempts.
As a parent you want to teach your kids valuable life lessons from their experiences.
When her grandmother asked her about her birthday the following day, my daughter said, “I wanted to get my ears pierced. But I couldn’t. I was scared.” And that is all that she remembered from a day filled with donuts, bike rides, dinner with her friends and family.
I didn’t want this to be a failure to my precious, newly minted, six-year-old. She wanted her ears pierced and I was going to help her conquer her fear.
So came up with a plan at 4am, after lying in bed for hours thinking about how to right the situation; I called the professional tattoo parlor/piercing place and warned them about the situation. There were bullet points that I wanted to get across to her, and things we were going to learn from this experience:
- It’s OK to be scared, but we go back and we face our fears
- Failures are only failures if you leave them at that
- There are positive ways to process your anxiety
- Go after what you want
- I am a wonderful, caring, mother who is teaching great life lessons through experiences (pat on the back, pat on the back)
I picked her up from school prepared– I had food. I had water. I had my inspiring speech running through my head. I had this beautiful montage playing in my mind of us marching through that parlor door holding hands. We would be bad-ass ladies who were not afraid of anything, and this story would serve as a marker for her of her bravery. This would be a tale that some day she would tell her own daughter, around her sixth birthday, and would become part of our family’s badass legacy.
“Come here,” I began, looking deep into her eyes. “We are going to go do something so special right now. We are going back and we are getting your ears pierced. But only if you want to do it,” I added without thinking.
I was just about to begin my rehearsed, thoughtful, motivational speech on facing fears when I realized that she was talking.
“No, I’m good,” she sad. “Can I have a snack?”
Sometimes in parenting you see these golden opportunities to teach your children valuable lessons… and then your kid decides to ruin it by having their own opinion. My daughter was happier eating crackers on the couch with her brothers than over coming fear and breaking through anxiety. I didn’t need to be her knight in shining armor and soothe away her disappointment with my adult words.
All she needed was some time and some carbs.
Sometimes teaching your kids valuable life lessons is about LETTING GO. Letting go of what you think you should be teaching them, about how you think they should be feeling. Kids don’t get hung up on things the same way that adults do, and they don’t process things the same, either. Learning to recognize that is a lesson that I am still trying really hard to learn.