I took Phoebe out for some back to school shopping the Thursday before preschool began. We arrived at the mall early. The stores weren’t open yet, so we walked to the fountain. We took a selfie.
We each threw a penny in and made a wish. Then Phoebe threw three more in – one for each of her siblings – and all four of them wished for the same thing. She said they wished that Phoebe would get her ears pierced.
None of my kids have their ears pierced. I’m not opposed to it. My attitude is, if they want their ears pierced, we’ll do it, but I’d like for it to be up to them. That’s how my mom handled it with me. I still remember how special and grown up I felt when I had mine done. I’d like for my kids to feel the same, but any time they have expressed an interest, the conversation has gone like this.
“I think it’d be cool to wear earrings. Mom, can I get my ears pierced?”
“Well, does it hurt?”
But this day was different.
“Phoebe, do you really want your ears pierced? For real?”
“Yes! Let’s go, Mom. They do it here,” she said, walking to the tall chair in the doorway at Claire’s.
I reminded her that it hurts. By then, the store clerk had made her way to us and was telling Phoebe it feels sort of like a shot at the doctor’s office. “But it doesn’t hurt forever.”
“But it does hurt,” I said.
She said she wanted the Rainbow Dash earrings. I suggested we go get her shoes for school and come back for earrings, if she still wanted them. She scrambled up in the chair. “I want them. I’m ready.”
The clerk told her to relax, it would be a while. We needed to learn about how to care for her ears. I needed to fill out the paper work and she had to get everything ready.
“Are you sure, Bee? You have to wear them for a long time before you can even change them.”
“Mom, I AM SURE.”
It was clear she had made up her mind. “Alright then,” I said. And I got excited. “Let’s do this!”
We giggled. We squealed. We fantasized about how jealous Julia and Lucy would be. I let her pick out a stuffed animal since they were only $5 with ear piercing and they would pierce the animal’s ears, too. She chose a cat she named Polka Dot I Love You Cat.
The clerk drew dots on her ears with a purple marker where the earrings should go.
“Okay. Are you ready?”
She was shocked. It hurt! She did not expect this! Why didn’t we tell her it would hurt!?!?! Why did we do this to her! She was only joking when she said she wanted her ears pierced! “I said, ‘I want to get my ears pierced!’ and Mommy said, ‘For real?’ and I said, ‘No!’ But she made me do it anyway!”
We showed her the earring in her ear. Wasn’t it beautiful? It was! Beautiful! She was so brave! So grown up! So…regretful. So afraid of feeling that hurt again. The clerk and I tried to cajole her into getting the other one done. A grandmotherly woman shopping nearby stopped and joined us in our efforts. She offered to buy Phoebe a pair of earrings! We offered a variety of solutions. You can close your eyes! Sit in Mommy’s lap! Mommy will hold you! Once your ears are pierced, YOU can pierce Polka Dot I Love You Cats ears! You count this time! Phoebe suggested we count to one hundred.
A shameful amount of time passed. I finally said, “Let’s just do this, Bee. Let’s just get it done.” She knew I was through negotiating. She jumped from the chair and, in her panic, broke a store mirror. The food court patrons turned toward the crash and Phoebe started to sob. An indignant voice rose above the chatter, “She’s making her get her ears pierced.”
I picked Phoebe up, hugged her, and sat her back in the chair. “Phoebe, are you going to get your other ear pierced? You’ve already got one.”
“I’ve changed my mind. Take it out.”
I knew she was through, too. I hung my head. “Can we take this out?”
The clerk looked apologetic. “You still have to pay.”
“Of course.” I considered it a fine for my idiocy.
We walked back to the fountain, exhausted. Phoebe carried Polka Dot I Love You Cat. I carried the “I just got my ears pierced at Claire’s” bag with my new, $50 Rainbow Dash earrings. We sat on a bench.
“I’m not mad at you, Bee.”
“I’m not mad at you either.”
But I catch myself correcting her when she says she got her ears pierced. And she doesn’t want me to wear those Rainbow Dash earrings, ever.
She woke up on time, ate a good breakfast, and happily posed for her official First Day of School photo. She held my hand as we walked in to school and kissed it gently before letting it go, calling goodbye over her shoulder, but never looking back. I left with Jack, feeling content that she was exactly where she should be. When I picked her up, her cheeks scarcely held her grin. “It was amazing,” she said with a gleeful hop. Then she told me about her day.
It was just so…easy. I almost felt guilty about it.
Her sisters were so proud of and excited for her and they did their best to show it. Julia combed her hair for her and gave her a spritz of perfume. Lucy offered advice and a huge “I’m so proud of you” squeeze. I was thankful for that because all it takes is a “meh” from a big sister to crush a kid’s heart.
But Bee’s heart has never been fuller.
Pink and purple!
What? Wait. No. Julia’s hair is just too dark. We gave her a few streaks, but the blue was nearly imperceptible to the naked eye and couldn’t not be caught on camera at all. So instead, we lightened her tips and colored it salmon.
We’ll give the blue another try later.
There is something about the word HUMANS that seems to carry more weight than any of its synonyms. The word PEOPLE, for example, seems a bit gentler. HUMANS? It is sharp and clinical. Most of the time when I hear someone use it, they’ve chosen it to emphasize what the word is NOT. For example, if you say “a human child,” it is sort of natural to think about the distinction the word human is implying. A human is not an alien, an amphibian, or a potato. And if the word is being used to qualify that characteristic, there is usually a reason. For example, there may have been doubt that the child being discussed was actually human.
Phoebe uses the word HUMAN a lot. I know exactly when I noticed it.
“You are the worst human EVER!”
She’d told me this. It seemed so severe – much worse than being the worst mother, the worst person, or even a simple and open-ended “the worst.” I was the worst HUMAN. Ever.
I took it less personally when I began to realize this was simply her term for folks.
“There are a lot of humans at this playground, Mom.”
“I like all the humans in my dance class!”
“Is this for humans?”
Ironically, the more she uses the term HUMAN, the less she appears to be so. She’s like a little Spock or Starman commenting on how us humans do life. And I enjoy it greatly.
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