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. 

*****     *****     *****

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.

*****     *****     *****

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.

*****     *****     *****

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.

*****     *****     *****

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. My older two girls got their ears pierced at the mall and things were fine. Zoe’s due to get hers done next month, though, and now I’m wondering if I should go to the tattoo parlor.

    But then on the other hand, does that seem like overkill, given that the other two girls were fine? Ugh, I don’t know.

  2. Jenn says:

    I would have never thought to go to a tattoo parlor. My daughter was about 7. We took her the day she decided to do it. I got a piercing redone so she could see and we had no problems. Yes, it was Claire’s.

  3. I haven’t had any parenting angst on this one yet, but I’ll never forget the unfairness I felt when I got mine done. After a lot of begging, I had mine done (Claire’s) the day after Christmas in 4th grade. My 18 months younger sister got to have hers done on the same day! I couldn’t believe the injustice after I had put in all that work. It’s funny though, my mom apparently didn’t even remember that I’d been going on about it. She claims this is also the reason that my other younger sister got to have a pet rabbit and I did not.

    • Jacqueline says:

      So funny. This is my story too! I hounded my mother for years to let me get my ears pierced, and she finally allowed me to get them when I was 14. The SAME DAY she allowed my 11 year old sister to get them too! 🙂 I could still fume about it today, 15 years later, haha. 🙂

    • Caitlyn says:

      Ha! I’m the younger sister – big sis had to wait for years and then I was allowed to get mine the very same year (and I’m 6 years younger!!). There’s still some resentment 🙂

      That said, they did both ears at the same time for me as well… but one of the guns jammed – while still on my ear! And they basically had to dismantle it around my ear – talk about freaking out! Luckily the other ear was already done or I would only have one ear pierced because there was NO way I would have sat through another try.

  4. Jeannie says:

    So, so helpful!!! My daughter’s a little older (16, the same age I was when I had my ears pierced) but wants hers done soon. We jokingly told her that we probably wouldn’t take her to “Don’t Tell Mama” — the tattoo parlour near us — but maybe we’ll reconsider …. and then reconsider again… This gives lots to think about — thanks!

  5. We are a ways off from this, but I imagine we will be in the same boat with Ellen. Interestingly, the line that stuck out the most to me in this post was, “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.)”

    I struggle (maybe not the right word)…I am very deeply refined by anxiety on a daily basis. I was once told I would do great things with this knowledge when I was able to gain control of it. Often I wonder if those “great things” will be helping my children develop tools for coping with anxiety – tools that I have had to develop as an adult because I never learned them as a child.

    • Anne says:

      “I am very deeply refined by anxiety on a daily basis.”

      Now THAT is a great way to put it. I’m hoping your self-awareness about this will help both you and your daughter navigate the scary stuff with grace.

  6. Jamie says:

    Wow! File this under the ever growing category of “Who Knew?”. This is great information. I took my older daughter to the mall without incident but it is such a mixed bag based on who is there to pierce, what time or day you choose to show up, etc. I am going to investigate tattoo parlors locally before taking my younger daughter to have her ears pierced. Thanks for the the great post!

  7. Anna says:

    I had my ears pierced when I was 16, but my daughter was really wanting hers pierced. I had let my holes close because I never wore earrings when my kids were younger, but decided to get mine redone. My daughter was 6 then, and asked if we could get them done. I told her she could watch me, then decide. We went to someplace like Claire’s, and she quickly decided she wasn’t ready. I knew it would be at least 3 years before she had another chance, and by that point, she had lost interest. (We were back in the US while she was 9-10.) I’m glad to know about the tattoo parlors. I’ll have to keep that in mind for when she DOES decide to get them done.
    Neither of us had any anxiety about getting them done. Living in the tropical jungles of Africa, we had to have all kinds of shots before coming, and boosters at certain times. My kids are pretty stoic about needles. But I can understand what you mean about being more sensitive to your kids when you have had the same struggles yourself. Of even if it’s not the same exact problems, remembering my own shortcomings or “issues” helps me to be more patient with my kids. 🙂

    • Anne says:

      I’m laughing at your stoic kids. 🙂 Now that I’ve had four kids, I’m a tiny bit desensitized to the blood and needles thing. But only a tiny bit. 🙂

  8. Huh, I don’t think I would have made that decision. Of course, I never got my ears pierced to begin with. Most of my friends had to wait until they were 12 or 14, I think. My sister didn’t get hers pierced until her 20s. I know people who as adults let them close up and regret the scars. It’s not a big deal, so I don’t think that I would have gone the you must do it now over the wait until you want it enough route. (And I still have vivid memories of things going wrong, which is why I ultimately decided it wasn’t worth it.)

    • Anne says:

      I wish all my friends had to wait until they were 12 or 14! I was the only girl in my class (suburban, Upper South, if that matters) for several years before my parents relented when I turned ten.

  9. Jacqueline says:

    I love your approach to this, Anne. My 5 year old daughter is the kind of kid who loses sleep over anxious situations, and I think dealing with the fear immediately (if possible) is such a great idea. Also, having had my ears pierced as a teen at Claires (slow healing, constant infections) vs. having the side of my nose pierced as an 18 year old at a tattoo parlor – I HIGHLY recommend the tattoo parlor. You would be shocked at how sterile and clinical they feel inside – like a doctor’s office! It was such a great experience. I never had trouble with my nose piercing healing up, and will eventually take my girls to a tattoo parlor if they decide they want their ears pieced in the future.

    • Anne says:

      Since I started asking about this last weekend, I’ve heard similar reports from my adult friends about piercings at the mall vs. their tattoo parlor piercings. I had no idea…

  10. Valerie says:

    My uncle pierced my ears at 4 with 2 ice cubes per ear, needle and thread. Yap! Never had a problem to date and it’s been a very long time. My daughter decided at 10 she wanted her ears pierced had them done at a hair dressers. She doesn’t wear earring much but if she had a special event they go in. I can go years without wearing earrings and have never had a problem with closing up. Hear a lot that others ears close up?

    • Anna says:

      My ears did- not right away, but probably after 8-10 years, I thought they would stay open. But I went years without ever wearing them & they did close. I have sensitive skin & have to wear hypoallergenic, not sure if that has anything to do with it. It’s been over 5 years since I got them pierced for the second time, and I don’t go more than a week or so without earrings

  11. I got my ears pierced when I was 14. My mom took me to the mall. And they got really infected. 7 years later, I decided on impulse to get a 2nd ear piercing. I had one of my nursing student friends do in her dorm room. They still got a bit infected but nowhere near as bad as the first time. Tattoo parlors sound like a better idea all around.

    • Jessica says:

      I also had the mall/department-store=infection experience. Now I have closed holes and no earrings and I like it that way (getting my ears pierced wasn’t exactly my idea anyway, but my parents were convinced I wanted them but fear was getting in the way. I’m not so sure about that, but what do I know?) Incidentally, I also experienced the ice cube/sharp needle prior to my nail gun experience, but just the one ear, I couldn’t go through with the other ear even when my mom’s friend tried bribing me with jewelry.

      • Anne says:

        Oh Jessica, that sounds awful all the way around! I think I would have closed holes (and like it that way!) if I were in your shoes for both those experiences.

  12. Yep, yep to the tattoo parlor! Glad you looked in to that after all…

    Our boat is somewhat different—I’ve told Tate (who turns 10 in a few weeks) she could get her ears pierced for about two years now, but she’s sick over the idea of it. She wants to, but not enough to actually do it. Just the thought of it makes her eyes water, poor thing. So she remains conflicted.

    (Which was why I found it really odd she wanted to go to the tattoo parlor with me when I got my nose pierced.) 😉

  13. Kara McGinty says:

    I did get my ears pierced at the Mall once upon a time as a young one along with getting my cartilage of my ear pierced at Walmart a few years later (I think that was the most common option back then). Both weren’t great experiences and hurt like the dickens due to the way the piercings are done at those places (blunt force with those guns….doesn’t feel nice and leads to unnecessary bruising). Now being an adult who has gotten a few tattoos and my nose pierced I have become well acquainted with the world of piercing/tattoo shops. Not all are created equal by any means. Some won’t have highly trained folks but others will have certifications and trainings out the wazoo and usually proudly display that both in their shops and on their websites. You often get what you pay for, so that is something else to keep in mind. Plus, when it comes to going to a piercing/tattoo shop the experience itself is usually much better. The use of just a needle in the hands of a professional is typically much less painful and more safe. I wish I had known about it before I got my cartilage pierced at Walmart in 7th grade. (Cartilage ear piercings react more to that blunt force piercings of those guns and more issues can arise.)

    Sorry for the big comment, just wanted to give what info I knew to you all in case it will be helpful for your little ones in the future! 🙂

  14. Krystal Griffin says:

    This is how I’ve felt about the flu shot for about four years. I went from, we don’t need it -> that was SO bad, I must protect them from it. Now I know more about the shot and I’m not getting the straight answers I want about the risks. This past year I discovered how incredibly powerful essential oils are and I’m using them to ward of winter illness. So, I’ve settled this year on my shot but using the oils on their feet each night to prevent them from catching anything. And that is about the best I think I can do with what I currently know, but I still wonder if I’m making the right choices. Yeah, it’s just the flu shot. I know. =P

    • Nicole H says:

      If you want more info about the flu shot, you might try voicesforvaccices.org.

      My daughter is only four, but definitely heading to the tattoo parlor when she gets them done.

      I was the last of my friends to get my ears pierced. I think I was 15. Done at Claire’s and trouble with infection. I also have a nickel-allergy so that didn’t help. Mine still tend to want to close up and I did have to repierce them in my 20s.

      • Anne says:

        I had no idea nickel allergies were so common. (My wheels are spinning: I can only wear certain kinds of metals, I wonder if that’s part of it?)

  15. Haha! I loved your whole story. I think I enjoyed it better because I don’t have my ears pierced and never plan to. Not due to any fear, but I’ve just never had a desire to. And I definitely was never going to do it because everyone else was. 🙂

    I’m 15, and hardly anyone notices my ears aren’t pierced unless I mention it. Then they’re surprised and ask me why I never pierced them.

    I know my choice isn’t for everyone, and ten is a fun age to get your ears pierced. High five, Anne’s daughter!

  16. Janet says:

    A friend pierced my ears when I was in my 20’s and my 3 year old daughter watched. A few days later she said she wanted hers pierced too, I told her it would hurt and that if she started she’d have to finish it. What a trooper, not a tear and never a bit of trouble.
    This was in the days before the malls had places to get it done and I would have never have thought of a tatoo parlor.
    Not everyone had pierced ears back then, it was just getting popular, but my Spanish mother-in-law had them and I asked her how old she was when she’d had it done and she said she was an infant—wow—.

    • Anne says:

      Is ear piercing for infants common in Spain? I’ve been so focused on my daughter that I forgot how much of this is cultural. How silly of me. 🙂

  17. Alyssa says:

    I’ve never heard of this any other time, but my mom had her ears pierced (in the 50″s) by her Dr.-with a hot needle. She went without earrings for years and they never closed up.

    My parents finally let me pierce mine for my high school graduation, but of course my sisters got theirs done much younger! I went on to get 3 on one side (it was the 80’s) and had to even that up eventually (all mall or jewelry store piercings, no problems)

    I let my 2 daughters get theirs done around age 5 (Claires) and they did great. Then when one turned 18 she came home from a summer in Korea with her nose pierced (spontaneous, some little shop, fortunately no problems) I took her 14 year old sister to get her nose pierced at a tattoo parlour and they did a great job. I have had much looser standards than my parents about these things! I always wanted to pierce my nose before it got so trendy but not sure I ever will.

  18. Tracy S. says:

    My sister pierced my ears, something I would not recommend! My youngest daughter, who is well-acquainted with anxiety, declared that she would never get her ears pierced–why would she sign up for pain for vanity’s sake! I would usually reply that no one was going to pierce her ears against her will so she was fine.

    She finally changed her mind at 16 for two reasons: People regularly thought she was much younger than her actual age and her brother was engaged and the wedding was possibly going to be a traditional Indian (Hindu) ceremony. She was so proud when her new sister-in-law’s mother loaned her ornate gold earrings to wear with her sari. Letting her choose her own timetable worked very well for us.

  19. Allison says:

    I considered getting my twin daughters’ ears pierced when they were about 6 months old. Asked the pediatrician’s office about it and yes they did it there but not on the same day that the kids were getting booster/vaccine shots. The more I thought about it the more upset I got at the thought of someone purposely putting holes into my perfect daughters’ ears.
    Yes I know it was dramatic but what can I say – I was a new, older mom who waited a long time trying to conceive and I finally had my babes.
    They will soon by 13 and their ears are still without extra holes.

  20. Val says:

    I was just wondering if you ever got over your fear of needles? My daughter is 12, and very frightened. Last time she needed to get one at school, she ran and hid – and we never had it done. I have tried bribery, but it hasn’t worked yet.

    Any ideas?

    • Meg says:

      What were they doing at her school with needles?? That worries me. My daughter (16) has a friend that is beyond scared of needles. She’s passed out when having to get blood drawn….she’s 17 and has never had any needle touch her body. My daughter has Crohns, so needles are part of her life, unfortunately. My point is, when a child is that afraid of needles, it’s not worth it to bribe them to get their ears pierced. It’s really not that important.

      • Val says:

        Hi Meg,
        Up here in Canada they do immunization programs in school , in certain grades. It’s done by nurses, and the parents sign a permission slip.

        I was trying the bribery to get her series of immunization s complete. I definitely would not do this for earrings, she wears clip on.

        I hope that clears up the confusion

        • Meg says:

          Wow, I had no idea immunizations are done at schools! That seems so mean..so many kids are needle phobic and then having to be around other kids and not have any privacy seems harsh….but I’m in California and Immunizations are such a hot button here. Maybe taking your daughter to have her shots done at the Dr would help her anxiety? I don’t blame her for running and hiding!!

    • Anne says:

      I didn’t get over it, exactly, but I know longer pass out (literally) at the thought. I never had any serious illnesses, but when I started having babies, I got somewhat acclimatized just because they stick you and poke you and draw blood so much.

      This is grossing me out just to type it (still not over it, see?) but I have learned to tell the medical professional 1. that I’m squeamish 2. that I’ve passed out before (so they believe me when I say I hate needles!) 3. that I have tiny veins and they should use a pediatric needle for whatever they’re doing if possible and 4. I don’t want to hear them talk about the procedure, I just want them to do it and get it over with.

      I hope that’s helpful. I’m going to go lay down now after talking about blood and needles for two whole minutes. (I’m kidding. Sort of. 🙂 )

  21. Joelle says:

    I remember my best friend getting hers pierced when she was about ten years old, and freaking out about it! My Latina grandmother took me to the doctor when I was only a few months old, and I’m glad she did. I’m so afraid of needles that my ears are still the only piercings that I have. I’ve always planned on getting my daughters’ ears pierced when they’re infants!

  22. Deborah says:

    I’m interested in the part about ears closing up. My older daughter had hers done at Claires at 13 (our age limit). No problems except for the fact when one earring accidentally came out after about 4 weeks, her ear literally closed up before she or I could get it back in. (She was home at the time and we tried immediately.) They had to re-pierce it, and four years later, she won’t/can’t leave her earrings out for more than a couple of hours. I had mine done at Claires when I was 17, and I regularly go 5-7 days without wearing them with no problems. I just figured it was my daughter, but seems odd. My younger daughter will be 13 on her next birthday. The “Hell Bomb” tattoo parlor around here don’t look like the type of environment I’d want to take my daughter to, but now I wonder. Anyone with a similar experience?

    • Allison says:

      I had my ears pierced many, many moons ago at around age 14. I wore earrings for a while but then lost interest and stopped. I tried putting earrings on and the holes seemed to have closed up. A few years later – I said to myself what the heck give it a try and lo and behold the earrings went in. I never understood it. Have worn earrings ever since.

  23. Oh my goodness! I cannot tell you how much I regret not taking my older daughter to a tattoo parlor! We are ten months out from her piercing at Claire’s, and still trying to get them to heal up. She ended up allergic to multiple metals, including gold. I had to commission special earrings made of niobium for her to wear. It has been a huge pain. When I started researching, I found that some people think the Claire’s method actually *causes* the allergies. Sigh. My younger daughter turned eight a couple weeks ago, which is the age we allow piercing. We will definitely be doing to a tattoo parlor!

    • Anne says:

      Oh wow. I had no idea you could be allergic to multiple metals, and I’ve never heard of niobium. Thanks for sharing your experience, and I’m hoping your daughter’s ears heal up soon.

  24. Liza Lee Grace says:

    I got my ears pierced on my 10th birthday. The rule was we had to wait until then. I got a second hole when I was in college. Both piercings were done at Claire’s. I didn’t have any problems with either so far as healing, but later I did have a few times where the second hole started bleeding..especially if I went too long without wearing anything. Those holes have since closed up. I went months without wearing any jewelry and when I tried to put earrings in, I could get one halfway.

    I’m planning on getting those holes re-pierced and when I do, it’ll be at a tattoo place. The more I’ve read and heard about ear piercing, the more I’m convinced that a reputable tattoo place is the way to do it.

  25. Amanda says:

    When I was 7, my 12-year-old cousin was going to Claire’s to have her second set of earrings done, so I was allowed to go along with her and get my first set. I think I felt more brave because I got to watch my cousin go first, and of course, I always wanted to be grown up like her.

    My first ear was fine, but the gun jammed on my second ear, so the piercing only went halfway through. So basically, she had to realign the gun with the bleeding open wound that was just created to try again and finish the job. Although I barely flinched on the first piercing, I, understandably, cried on the second ear. The gun worked on the second try, but I learned later on when my ears had healed that there was only one front hole but two “paths” through my ear. One that dead ended off to the side where the gun stopped and another that went straight through to the back. It actually took several years for that half piercing to close up and become just scar tissue. At this point, I can’t even feel the scar tissue anymore.

    It’s not like I was traumatized for life or anything (and amazingly, that piercing never got infected) but I would definitely consider a tattoo place if I ever have a daughter that would like to get her ears pierced.

    • Anne says:

      Oh, that sounds horrible! I personally know several parents who had the same thing happen to their children: not the two holes (yikes!) but the jammed gun. I’m so glad yours are all healed up now.

  26. Meg says:

    Ugh. I hate this topic! I am the kid who had her ears pierced by her friends mother with a potato and a sharp tool. I think I was 8. I slept over her house that night and cried all night in pain. This was not a “warm and fuzzy household” and they would’ve laughed at me had they known I cried all night. Fast forward 30+ years and my own daughter wants hers pierced. For some reason, my husband has it stuck in his head she has to be 13. No clue why, but my daughter broke him down to age 10. She was fine with the mall piercing but a few months later, she wears crappy earrings (thanks, cheap inlaws!) her ear gets infected and she has to have the earring CUT out of her ear by my ENT. Yeah, not fun. She got them pierced again a year or so later and now I practically have to beg her to wear earrings….she looks so pretty with them on but being 16, THEYRE too much trouble to think about. Thank god I only have one girl…if I had another, she would wear stick on earrings until she moved out. See, I told you I hate this topic!

    • Anne says:

      Your own experience sounds like a nightmare … and then your daughter had to have a cheap earring CUT OUT of her ear? I would wear stick-on earrings forever, too!

  27. Ashley H. says:

    I was 10 when I got my ears pierced at the mall, too. I have never had any problems with them 12 years later. I don’t wear earrings on an everyday basis (they’re more of a special occasion thing) but my holes have never closed up. There were no needles involved in my ear piercing. They just took the earring and poked it through my ear with a little thing that looked like a staple remover. The earring was on one side and the back was on the other. It didn’t make noise, it didn’t hurt, and NO NEEDLES! I hate needles too, so I remember being very nervous because I thought there was going to be needles and a gun (yikes).

  28. Sarah says:

    We got my daughter’s ears pierced a couple of years ago. I think she was ten. We went to Claire’s, and they did both ears at the same time. One went in perfectly, the other ear took three tries. My poor baby.

  29. Shauna says:

    I love that you handled the situation with grace and flexibility. My mom took me to the mall to get my ears pierced when I was five. The noise startled me so badly (plus, it HURT) that I wouldn’t let them do the other one. I went around for months with only one ear pierced before I had the courage to try again! They got out the same nail gun, and I promptly got out of the chair. I finally had the other one pierced at the pediatrician’s office! The whole ordeal makes me laugh now. 🙂

  30. Ana says:

    I got mine done as an infant, and then got a cartilage piercing done & redone at Claire’s in my 20s (that stupid thing closed up after 3 hours of taking the earring out for an MRI and closed again). I NEVER considered tattoo parlors. I’ll look into that if I ever need anything else pierced (or if my boys convince me at some point to let them have a piercing!)
    As for what to do with the younger sister, I’d either stick with the same age as the older, or, if you are inclined to relax that, get your older daughter involved in the decision (we waited until 10 for you because we thought it would be scary, etc… what do you think?). I am also one of those older sisters still fuming about “unfair” treatment along similar lines as a child.
    FInally, I love how you and others are seeing the strength in your anxiety/nervousness or other character traits that could be perceived as weaknesses and I hope to do the same. I already use my experience with social anxiety/introversion/shyness & the way my parents mishandled that to know what NOT to do with my son.

  31. liz n. says:

    One of my sons is a tattoo artist, and his shop does a lot of piercings. A notarized form is required for a minor who wants to get pierced ears, and the parent or legal guardian must be present. His shop will not do any other piercings for anyone under the age of 18, but that is their own policy. I don’t know if this applies to all tattoo shops, but here, separate certification is required before an artist can do the piercings. The shops also undergo regular inspections from the health department, and they do not use the piercing gun. The woman who does the piercings at my son’s shop says that there is far less pain involved, and the needle procedure is much more sanitary. However, you do have to make an appointment. I wish I’d known about the option of getting ears pierced at a tattoo parlor when my daughter was little!

    • Anne says:

      Thanks for sharing all that insider information!

      BTW: the mall required a notarized form, too. But the piercer was the notary. I bet a lot of people don’t even realize some mall places require a notarized form because they already make you sign several pieces of paper so what’s one more

  32. Kayris says:

    ask your pediatrician for a script for EMLA cream. It’s a lidocaine cream. My daughter got her ears pierced last March (she was 7) and the cream didn’t completely numb her, but it did help. She wants a second hole now and I told her that I will get myself a third hole when she goes. We will both be using the EMLA cream.

    • Kayla says:

      I got my daughter’s ears pierced at a tattoo parlor, and it was a great experience for her. The woman who pierced her ears specializes in kids ears and was very clear about her use of new needles and gloves. My daughter said it didn’t hurt at all, the needle was so sharp. I remember the burning sensation after getting my ears pierced with the “gun” and she didn’t experience any of that. Who better to pierce your kid’s ears than someone who pierces for a living?

  33. mary says:

    What to say. I am the younger sister. I am sure there was frustration by my older sister but I never really heard about it. My daughter was one of the last in her school class to have her ears pierced at 10, and we went the pediatrician route. I love ours. It was probably one of the first times I felt pressured by her peers. Peer pressure on parents is alive and well in the teen years. This topic interests me from the perspective of the anxiety our children feel, and how can we help them. Do we cave, do we attend to their every desire, do we remain resolved and say no automatically, do we involve ourselves in their drama, do we solve their problems, do we study with them? I don’t feel I am consistent and that scares me, but parenting is certainly a fluid process.

  34. Kelli says:

    I had my ears pierced at 6 in the doctor’s office (I don’t think Claire’s existed then!). They put stuff on to numb them and then did a needle piercing. The numbing stuff was nearly worn off by the second ear, and my mother almost passed out watching the process 🙂 I was ok with it. Ear piercings #2 and 3 were done in the mall, and at least it was quicker. No infections, thankfully. But a few years ago I had a navel piercing done at a tattoo parlor and I was so impressed with the place. Completely spotless and such nice people. The guy there said that the staff goes in and cleans for an hour every day before opening so they know it’s clean. I would definitely do that again, as I had to let the navel piercing close up since I bought a ring that wasn’t quite good enough quality as my body likes and it got irritated – but that was nothing on the place, I was just going with a less expensive piece of jewelry than I should have.

  35. Dana says:

    I did not have pierced ears until I was 30. My dad would not allow it when I was growing up. My mom did not have hers pierced either. However when he was 17 my brother got his pierced. My dad’s comment was I never thought to tell him not to pierce HIS ears!

    I got mine done as a ceremony for myself when my first husband divorced me.

    Needles have never bothered me. I have a high tolerance for pain, fortunately.

    I got mine done at a kiosk at the mall and had no trouble with them.

  36. natasha says:

    My daughter did hers at Wal-mart when she was about your daughter’s age, maybe a little younger. I never thought I’d be sitting in Wal-mart doing that!

  37. Jennifer says:

    I got my daughters ears pierced on her first birthday, to avoid exactly the situation you described, and also so that when she starts school her ears are all healed up and if she has to take the earrings out, it’s no biggie if they stay out for a couple of days. Both ears were pierced at the same time, and she cried for about 5 seconds and then she was fine and they’ve healed well (she turned 2 just before christmas). I got my ears pierced when I was too young to even remember it, but for a lot of my friends it was such a big deal, and I think that made the such a difference for me when it came to ‘everyone’ having their bellybuttons pierced, I wasn’t all that bothered. When all my friends were rushing out to get tattoos, again I wasn’t bothered. And, yes, I had my bellybutton pierced, and I have tattoos, but I got them done for me after actually thinking it through, not because it was the thing to do, all my friends had or my parents were against it (which they weren’t my mum took me to get my first tattoo!). I think not having that early battle with my parents about pierced ears made the bigger things seem a lot less important. So that’s the way I’m trying to do this whole parenting thing xx

    • Anne says:

      My daughter kept saying, “I WISH you’d pierced my ears when I was a baby!” Which is exactly what I told my parents was back when. 🙂

      “I think not having that early battle with my parents about pierced ears made the bigger things seem a lot less important.” I’m going to be thinking this over. Well said.

  38. Victoria says:

    I got mine done with a gun at a hairdressers when I was 14. My mum wasn’t happy because she thought I wouldn’t take care of them, but they were fine. They healed up a bit if I didn’t wear them for more than a couple of weeks in the first few years, but I can leave them out for months now 20 years later. I don’t agree with getting a child’s ears pierced as an infant. Just a personal preference. But I would definitely choose a tattoo parlour. Clean and well regulated as people have been saying. And I agree with the previous poster about sticking to the same age for both or talking to your eldest about it. Those seemingly small ‘injustices’ can last forever. My sister still resents me for having to babysit me when she was a teenager and blames me instead of our parents, although I was 5!

    • Anne says:

      “Those seemingly small ‘injustices’ can last forever.”

      As a mother of two daughters (and two sons, but they’re seven years apart, so somehow the potential for resentment seems smaller to me) I appreciate this. You phrased that so well.

  39. Mandi Jayne says:

    As someone who used to work at a very popular store that often does ear piercings, I will say it loud and clear-go to a tattoo parlor!! Although there may be some stores/kiosks that have very high standards, there are a lot that do not. Personally, I only had to pierce three times with supervision (one time was the manager, the other two were unsuspecting customers) before I was allowed to work on my own and pierce willy nilly. It was terrifying for ME, and although I tried to be confident and careful I know that I would have benefitted from a lot more experience before being turned loose on my own. When my girls get big enough (we are choosing to wait until they can care for their ears themselves, probably around ten like you) I’ll definitely be taking them in to an experienced piercer at a tattoo parlor!

  40. Anne says:

    I will remember this (and the urgings of others to use the tattoo parlor) if and when my daughter gets her ears pierced. My parents never let me pierce mine, and I lost interest as an adult. What a great strategy you came up with for Sarah!

  41. Karianna says:

    We took DD1 to the tattoo parlor when she was 6.5 for her piercings and I really felt at ease. At this particular parlor, the piercer reserved the right to say “no” if they felt the child was not really ready. The piercer, Shelby, sat and talked with my daughter ans me for over 10 min, explaining the process, showing us the equipment and putting us at ease.

    I was honestly more nervous than DD1 and I’m tattooed and had been pierced before! (Ah, college!)

    Anyway, it was more expensive than a mall kiosk in the end, and I wouldn’t change a thing!

    • Anne says:

      Thanks for sharing about your experience! I was a nervous wreck too, so I totally get that. Also, that seems like a great policy at that tattoo parlor, for the piercer to use her judgment. That would bolster my confidence as a parent. 🙂

  42. Steph says:

    I got mine done at the pediatricians when I was around 12, and the piercings are slightly uneven. 🙁 It’s not a huge deal, but still a bit annoying. I’d never thought of a tattoo parlor, but that’s a great idea!

  43. Tim says:

    We had those times when one or the other kid was anxious over something similar, whether it was annual shots or a life milestone of some sort. You really handled your daughter’s anxiety well, Anne. Great story-telling too. And cheers to those two women ahead of you and the tattoo/piercer person!

  44. Kristy says:

    I had to wait until I was 12. I was the younger sister. But I rewarded my 3 year old daughter with pierced ears for giving up her pacifier. Now, my 2 year old daughter is asking to get her ears pierced! I wonder how long I’ll be able to put her off!

    I took my 3 year old to Claire’s to get it done. It went fine. They look great. However, she won’t let me change them. It’s been almost a year. We tried once but the skin had grown around her earing and it really hurt. She won’t let me try again. We just keep turning them! And I’m hoping next time won’t be as traumatizing!

  45. Bonnie says:

    My mother’s ears weren’t pierced, and I was too chicken to do it until end of freshman year of college–during finals, no less. It didn’t hurt at the time, but I distinctly remember the throbbing during my English final! I learned something today; I didn’t know a tattoo parlor was the place to go.

  46. Rebecca says:

    Haha! I, too, never thought of a tattoo parlor despite spending much of my early 20s in one;) I leave the issue of piercings up to my daughter and sons (their uncle has the coolest earrings). My daughter wanted hers done when she was five and immediately asked to get a second hole (I have five in each ear, her grandma has two in each so it’s a normal thing for her). I didn’t let her then, maybe in a couple years? I really, truly don’t mind so I’m not sure how to make rules about this. I feel the same way as a commenter above, I don’t want to make a big deal about body alterations. I have told her, in regards to tattoos, that she has to be 18, have the money to pay for it, put it in a place that can be covered, and take me with her:)

    • Anne says:

      “I have told her, in regards to tattoos, that she has to be 18, have the money to pay for it, put it in a place that can be covered, and take me with her 🙂 ”

      LOVE this.

      And I know what you mean, I don’t know how to make rules about stuff I really don’t mind about…

  47. Faith R says:

    Aww – my heart goes out to you!! I can be really self-doubting too. I think sometimes we feel like we must always make THE best possible decision every time for our kids in order to be a good parent. But sometimes we just need to let ourselves off the hook and make the best decision we can in the moment – you weighed the options, more anticipation and anxiety waiting or to get it done in a more sterile environment. I think you made a great decision.

    Before you take your child to the tattoo place I’d suggest going in and seeing the piercing booth. When I got my nose pierced there was a poster on the wall that I would not want my child to see and it was a pretty scary environment – even though the guy who did it was super-nice. But maybe you’ve already done that 🙂

    My girls all got their ears pierced at the mall. My middle daughter actually got her ears pierced first! Her older sister saw that it wasn’t a big deal and got hers done a few weeks later.

    I think you displayed some terrific parenting there. It’s good advice for people with anxious kids.

    • Anne says:

      That’s a great tip about the tattoo parlor. In my city at least, you HAVE to go to the tattoo parlor in advance in order to get the consent form. They’re not allowed to post it online.

      Your middle daughter sounds like my younger daughter! She enjoyed showing up all her siblings when it was flu shot time last year, saying “I’ll go first, it doesn’t hurt” and making a big point NOT to flinch. 🙂

  48. Rachel says:

    We allowed my daughter to get hers done for her 6th birthday. We took her to the Tattoo Parlor and recommend it to anyone who asks. It was wonderful. They were so nice and kind and it caused her very little pain. The piercer who did hers said that they only pierce children’s ears if they feel the child is old enough, and wants it themselves. She also said they pierce a LOT of kids ears and their shop was not scary in any way. It was a great experience. We will go back to the same place when/if my younger daughter decides to have hers done.

  49. stephanie says:

    I didn’t read through all the comments but we had our girls (all 3) pierced at the same time at our pediatrician’s office. At the time she charged $30 for a little pair of gold diamond earrings and she NUMBED their ears and they didn’t feel a thing. Just perfect. : )

  50. Cate says:

    I got my first two piercings done at Mall stores (at 13 and 18). I decided I wanted a third hole (it was the 80’s) and my friend did it with a needle and ice cube. Since then, all but the first holes have closed up and I decided to get re-pierced last winter. I went to a tattoo place based on recommendations from friends and I would never go or take my girls anywhere but there. It was a lot less painful than the guns they used at the mall (or the do-it-yourself piercing), the cleanliness was wonderful, they walked me through the cleaning and piercing step-by-step, the aftercare was great. It was a great experience and I have recommended the shop and piercer to many people.

  51. Nikki says:

    I got my ears pierced at age 4, both at the same time, at the mall. The issue was someone (me or one of the people doing it) flinched, so one was very low. Later, I found it so low if I wore earrings that were slightly heavy, I risked ripping it. I got that redone about 9 or 10 and talked my mom I to a second set about 15. This also happened in the mall, but one at a time, and all went well. I got my third done at 18 (without mom’s approval) in a tattoo parlor and had a fabulous experience! We did have to make a stop at the grocery store for cleaning materials, but it was well worth it! That said, I’m not sure I’d go back and do the third, or even the second set again, but it’s too late now.

  52. Colleen Trinko says:

    I had them done at the pediatrician’s office. The nurse who gives the immunizations did it. Far more expensive than the mall, but worth it.

  53. Katie Pritchard says:

    Fascinating! I have an 11, almost 12 year old, who doesn’t have her ears pierced yet. At five years old, she saw a friend of hers who’d had her ears pierced for her fifth birthday lose an earring and bleed ALL over the place and scream after the mother tried to get it back in. She’s still sort of traumatized over that and hasn’t shown any interest since. I figured when she started showing interest, I’d take her to get her ears pierced, but I hadn’t thought about where at all. I might just be taking her to the tattoo parlor, thanks for the advice!

  54. Ashlee says:

    i developed two awful, large keloids after Claire’s piercings that had to be surgically removed. I then had them re pierced with a needle at a tattoo parlor. We took our 4 (yes, 4, we will wait a lot longer for #2) to a tattoo parlor, it went really well and they were great.

  55. Angela says:

    I was 2 DAYS old, haha 🙂 I was born in the Philippines and the hospital offered the service. The downside is the ear piercing holes are a little higher instead of in the middle of my ear lobes. The same is true for my sisters. Our ears grew out, I guess?

  56. 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

  57. 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!

  58. 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.)

  59. 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.

  60. 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.

  61. 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!

  62. 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.

  63. 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?

  64. 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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