Pierced ears and parenting angst.

Pierced ears and parenting angst.

Last Saturday, my daughter wandered into my office and burst into tears.

After some cajoling (and a big hug), I figured out what the trouble was.

She wanted to get her ears pierced, but she was terrified of getting her ears pierced.

Her tenth birthday is quickly approaching. She knew I got my ears pierced on my tenth birthday a long time ago. She knew before long Will and I would finally give her the permission she’s been waiting for. And then she’d get what she wanted and it would hurt.

I have a lot of sympathy for this kind of anxiety: I was a nervous kid myself. My well-meaning doctor told me at my ten-year-old check up that I wouldn’t need another shot until I was fifteen. I hated needles, so I lived in fear of that shot for five years.

Because of my own history, I’m acutely sensitive to helping my own kids navigate those issues. (Which means I’m destined to be blindsided by some other parenting issue I’ve never considered, but never mind that for now.)

When I found out Sarah had been (literally) losing sleep over getting her ears pierced, the solution seemed obvious: she needed to get her ears pierced. Now. 

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Before I told my daughter today was the day, I made a few calls and asked on facebook where a 9-year-old should get her ears pierced in my city.

I was surprised to learn the answer: a tattoo parlor.

(Things have changed since I turned ten.)

It turns out a reputable tattoo parlor has all kinds of advantages over the piercing booth at the mall.

Tattoo parlors are highly regulated and meticulously clean. Their employees are well-trained. Their methods are different from those employed by the mall stores. I’ll spare you the details (because I still don’t like needles), but piercings done by tattoo artists go in cleaner and heal faster than the blunt piercings performed by nail guns at mall kiosks.

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I found out what needed to happen: to get her ears pierced at the tattoo parlor, Sarah needed an appointment and a notarized consent form to pierce a minor.

Knowing what we needed—and that we could do it that day—I asked Sarah if she wanted to get her ears pierced. Today. 

She surprised me: she burst into tears.

But an hour later she was decided: she wanted to do it. She couldn’t wait to have pierced ears, and she couldn’t wait to put the uncomfortable anticipation in the past.

But it turned out the tattoo parlor couldn’t work us in that day after all.

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I’d backed myself into a corner: I knew too much to be comfortable going to the mall. But I didn’t want my daughter to face another week of sleep-depriving anxiety.

In the end, we went to the mall. We watched two grown-ups get their ears done while we waited. (I was afraid this would freak out my daughter, but the women hardly flinched. Bless you, ladies, wherever you are.)

I knew just enough to be an obnoxious customer. I examined the piercing gun. I made sure the employee (who inspired confidence and had a great demeanor with my daughter) changed her gloves and sterilized the counter.

Everything looked fine to me. They pierced both ears at the same time, which we both appreciated. We had a good experience, but I still felt conflicted.

I wish I’d known more in advance, so I would have been prepared to take her to the tattoo parlor.

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In another year or two (or honestly, next week if she starts losing sleep over it like her older sister was), I’ll be taking my younger daughter to get her ears pierced. We’ll be going to the tattoo parlor. I’ll have the notarized form ready in advance. I might pick it up today, just so I’m ready when the time comes.

Maybe you’re not inclined to self-doubt like I am. But for those of you who are, I hope to spare you some parenting angst.

Because I can tell you: I never expected to regret not taking my daughter to the tattoo parlor.

I’d love to hear your experiences with pierced ears and parenting angst in comments. 

When I was a kid, my friends and I got our ears pierced at the mall. Times have changed. My 9-year-old just got her ears pierced, and I was surprised to here where the cleanest, safest place to go was. Read this BEFORE you need it and you'll save yourself a lot of angst (and maybe an infection).

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146 comments

  1. Kelly says:

    I just got my ears pierced and I’m 22 haha. I was so terrified of getting it done when I was younger and it didn’t mean THAT much to me (my friends never made that big of a deal about it) but when I started getting earrings as a gift as an adult and having to explain they weren’t pierced… thought I should just go ahead and get it done lol

  2. Christa says:

    My pediatrician did my ears many years ago. Aside from a few DIY piercings (not recommended; I was 16…) I’ve gone to tattoo and piercing parlors exclusively. I’d never go to a mall – even if they’re clean, the technique and experience would pale in comparison to a good piercer in a shop. You can even find places that specialize in piercing only (Pleasurable Piercing in Hawthorne, NJ is where I’ve gone). I’m glad you recommended this option to people who may not realize the benefits of tattoo parlors.

    • Robin says:

      I would consider driving to Hartshorne NJ but I live in southern NJ between Trenton and Camden…does anyone know of a tattoo parlor that does kids’ piercings closer to me? My daughter is almost 8 and we are considering do it for penance/ 1st communion. Her dr doesn’t do it. And although I had mine done years ago in the mall with the guns…I did have healing problems and it seems to be an issue…not one I want to deal with for her 1st communion pictures and special day…I want them to heal quickly:-) I called one place but they aren’t insured for kids under 15. I have another one to try calling later when they open. Thanks for any ideas…

      • Robin says:

        Found a place…piecing by a i…in depford, nj at 12 ounce studios….he is part of the APP…Association of professional Piercers…only 2 in nj…the place in hawthorne and th
        is one….will let u know how it goes…going this evening

        • Robin says:

          It went great…so professional and sterile …jewelry was pricey but medical grade titanI’m internal screw with flat backs so very comfortable and safe to wear 24/7. My d daughter said it was just the pain of a paper cut for a brief few seconds. And no redness after the first few min. And the care has been so simple…just sterile wound wash type saline and sterile gauze. AJ was great despite my daughter saying to him that he looked funny (with his big bone lined holes in his ears). And so far no soreness or anything…yeah!

  3. Sarah says:

    When my daughter wanted her ears pierced a few years ago, my husband actually did go to a tattoo parlor to talk to them about it. From what they said, in my state, it’s illegal for them to pierce anyone under 18. Too bad. He ended up taking her to a place at the mall that specializes in piercing and her experience was fine. (Don’t ask my why he was the one who did it – I think they were just there and she talked him into it. She was 9.) I had a cartilage piercing done at Claire’s, but I had my nose pierced at a tattoo parlor. That’s where I’d go for any further piercings (I plan to get another cartilage piercing at some point). They were so knowledgable and helpful, and everything was well sterilized and/or brand new. I had my ears pierced when I was 4 and I wear earrings every day (I also have double ear piercings, but don’t wear earrings in those holes anymore.)

  4. Jeanne says:

    I’m glad it worked out for you and so many others. I still have a scar from when I went to Claire’s. I jumped and they weren’t EXACTLY in sync. So I have this ridiculous bump on my ear, 20 years after the fact. And it bled every time I changed my earrings.

    So, I’ll be taking my kids (whoever wants) to the tattoo parlor, I’ll figure out which one, but that’s where I had my industrial piercing, nose and tongue done, all easily. And with real needles instead of a gun. Real needles are so much safer and less painful. And no nasty bubble scars.

  5. Bekki says:

    We live a couple of hours from a mall, and I don’t want my daughter anywhere near our local tattoo parlors. Thankfully hairdressers in our area offer tattoo style piercings in their salons, so we had it done there.

  6. Melissa says:

    My physically and socially mature 14 year old daughter wants to get her nose pierced. I’m not opposed to the idea as I’ve toyed with it for myself, but at 46 think I’d look like mutton dressed as lamb and I’m not sure she needs to look 25 when she already seems 18. Her best friend of 11 years, who is also 14, just got her nose done as did her mother who is significantly younger than me. Ugh, the decisions we moms need to make!

  7. Marna says:

    My mother wouldn’t allow me to pierce my ears until I was 16! And that was umpty-ump years ago. And then she said the doctor had to do it! So the pediatrician marked with a pen on my lobes, took a detached-from-the-syringe needle and SHOVED it through my ear!!!! I passed out, he did the other one, and then brought me to. Not a great experience.

  8. Wendy says:

    I have a total of four holes in my ears from three different occasions, all done at malls, and had no trouble with any of them. When we picked up our children from the orphanage, and my 6 year old daughter was sitting on my lap in the seatbelt-less back seat of the taxi, she asked me two questions through an interpreter.

    1. Can I grow my hair out?
    I said, “Yes!”

    2. Can I get my ears pierced?
    I said, “When you are 12,” with complete confidence. I had never once thought about the question, but I was 12 when I got mine pierced, and it seemed reasonable to me. Three years later it’s become kind of a thing, because her some of her friends and her cousin have theirs pierced. Yet I feel like I can’t back down now, because I don’t want to set that precedent.

    I am not a highly anxious person, but my son has serious doctor/ needle fear–like he gets freaked out as his sister’s appointments. Like he locked himself in the bathroom at the clinic the last time he needed shots. Like I was so glad to tell him he wouldn’t need any again until he was 12, and he has been worried about turning 12 ever since. Any advice on how to help him cope with medically necessary shots?

  9. I see that people have their daughters ears pierced within a months of them being born, and I’m just curious as to how they’ve do it. I remember my mother letting me get my ears pierced at age 12, I was so excited. Fast forward a few years, and I can’t even remember where I go my ears pierced. I’ve been wanting a few more piercings though, I’ll just have to look around for a shop that would be able to do it.

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