This summer was a big one for my 8-year-old daughter. After going back and forth on her decision (mostly due to her fear of any potential pain), she got her ears pierced for the first time. It was a pretty major event in her little world, as evidenced by the entire family — including her grandmother, aunt, and cousins — joining her for the monumental moment at our local Claire’s boutique. There she was, giddily picking out her stud earrings while her grandmother held her hands. Nearby, I positioned myself with my iPhone to capture the photo-worthy moment.
And then it happened: She flinched, for maybe a half a second, and boom — it was done.
By now, it’s a familiar scene, no doubt experienced by so many other little girls her age, because c’mon guys, ear piercings are a huge deal when you’re in the third grade.
And yet, it wasn’t until we got home that my 6-year-old son — who worships the ground my daughter walks on — asked if he could get his ears pierced, too. After all, it was such a huge moment for my daughter; of course he wanted to have his own 10 seconds in the spotlight, just like her. (Or in this case, his 10 seconds on top of a swirling salon chair at Claire’s.)
Now, I’m not going to lie: While my daughter has been waiting for months to finally get her ears pierced, I never actually considered that this would be something my son would want to do, too. But before I could say a word — or accidentally let a gendered comment slip — my husband swooped in to save the day.
He sat our 6-year-old down and said, “I got my ears pierced when I was 17. Grandma Halina hated it and told me every day that boys have no place wearing earrings. But I wore them anyway.”
It was true. My husband still wore small studded earrings when I met him in his late 20s. It wasn’t until certain lifestyle changes came into play (like careers and fatherhood) that he stopped wearing them. Plus, the older he became, the more bored he got with jewelry and style in general. Long story short, that’s why he no longer wears them. Not because someone told him he shouldn’t; and not because it isn’t “what boys do.”
My husband went on to tell our son that while he can absolutely get his ears pierced if he wants to, it takes a lot of responsibility to take special hygienic care of the earrings, so he should think long and hard about it before making the decision. Plus, there was also the issue of the “pain” to consider — though by now, his older sister had already assured him it was nothing to worry about.
But the truth is, I’m lucky that my husband stepped in when he did. Otherwise, I’m afraid my first, knee-jerk reaction — that “ear piercings are for girls, not boys” — would have gone against what I truly want to be teaching him about gender stereotypes.
I was reminded of all of this over the weekend when a story about Jillian Michaels popped up in my Facebook feed. The celebrity fitness buff and mother-of-two recently shared a photo of her son Phoenix donning his new, shiny earrings, which went swiftly viral — for all the right reasons.
“The little man works on his selfie skills,” Michaels wrote in her caption. “And yes, he got his ears pierced. His sister got hers pierced and he wanted his done. I wasn’t about to say ‘that’s for girls.'”
And for that move, Instagram was quick to applaud her.
“Love that you let him!” wrote one user. “Gender norms are so oppressive.”
“My 4-year-old boy wants ‘ear mops’ and I was just telling him the same!” added another. “You want it — I’m in. I got mine pierced at 4. Why shouldn’t he?”
She’s right — why shouldn’t he?
While I have to admit that Phoenix looks like quite the stud with his new bling, our own son has opted to wait a bit longer for his — or at least until he’s old enough to understand the responsibility that comes with them. Until then, we’re leaving the option open and waiting for him to tell us he’s truly ready.
And when and if he does, we’ll be right there by his side — me with my iPhone ready to capture it all, Grandma Halina squeezing his hand, and the rest of the family gathered ’round, excited for his big moment.