When should I get my infant foster daughters’ ears pierced? It was the furthest thing on my mind until case workers, friends, and strangers who identify as black began asking me about it daily. That is, they were asking me about my black foster daughter’s ears, but made no mention toward my similarly-aged, white-looking (she’s 1/2 Jewish and 1/2 Hispanic) foster daughter.
In talking with friends, I expressed that I do want to get my 7-month-old black foster daughter’s ears pierced now (with her mom’s consent), but not my lighter-skinned 3-month-old daughter. Why is that? I started to ask around amongst my white friends who echoed my involuntary, visceral response to the topic. Earrings on a black baby are adorable, but on a white baby they look was described as “cheap” or “trashy.” These descriptions are always whispered in shame. Where do these stereotypes arise? How do these biases come about? And do we need to talk about it in order to undo them?
I’ve spent several hours searching academic literature and even the internet for a break-down of the average age of ear piercing within different cultures, but I’ve come up empty. My unofficial poll of the age in which parents of different backgrounds believe that children should get their ears pierced goes something like this:
African-American/Black = 4-6 months
Hispanic = soon after birth
Low-income whites = toddler age
High-income whites = between age 7-10
From a health and safety perspective, no major pediatric medical association takes a stand regarding appropriate age for ear piercing nor do they indicate that it’s harmful. Parents are left to make the ear piercing decision based on culture and tradition, which includes factors like ethnic background and socio-economic status.
I’d love to hear what age you got your ears pierced and how you think (or don’t think) skin color and income played an unconscious part. And, are you deciding to pierce your little girls’ ears? At what age? Most importantly, I’d like for any discussion I’ve opened-up to be respectful of all people’s differences.
Also from Rebecca this month: 10 Steps I Take to Avoid Co-sleeping With My Baby,
You can also follow Rebecca on her blog, Fosterhood here.
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