Announced by the clatter of a vintage typewriter, a text message from my wife illuminated my phone. The message contained photographic proof of a mission accomplished: our daughter’s ears were now pierced.
In the photo, she stood in profile, her hair pulled back, a tiny earring adorning her left lobe. A stud, crafted in the form of a red heart outlined in gold, glinted in the light.
When my daughter returned home, her face beaming with excitement, she rushed over to me.
“Daddy, I was so brave!”
“Yes, you certainly were, sweetie.”
Bravery has been a consistent theme of late with my daughter. It started this past spring when she expressed her desire to conquer the water by learning how to swim. This led to “Swim Girl Summer,” the name we gave the season in a nod to her weekly swim lessons.
But now, with her ear lobes properly punctured, our daughter has ushered in a new era: Fly Girl Fall.
‘Mommy, I’m ready to be brave.’
The seeds of this season were planted in the months leading up to her 9th birthday in August.
My daughter dug through her avalanche of toys and trinkets to unearth a pair of purple clip-on earrings shaped like butterflies that a friend gifted her. She’d stopped wearing them months earlier, but was suddenly sporting them as if they were prized possessions. Her fascination with earrings reached a point where she started using a glue stick to affix pink beads to her earlobes—and proudly wearing them beyond the confines of our home.
Sometimes our children show us better than they can tell us. It was obvious she wanted her ears pierced.
My wife had postponed getting our daughter’s ears pierced when she was a baby. She feared the earrings might appear disproportionate to the size of our daughter’s head, an effect she humorously likened to resembling “Frankenstein.” And as our daughter grew older, we wondered if she could tolerate the piercing procedure and the subsequent healing period. But after my wife explained that getting her ears pierced may be uncomfortable, our daughter declared, “Mommy, I’m ready to be brave.”
So my wife scheduled the piercing appointment for the first Saturday in August as a birthday gift.
Reflection of child’s unique personality
As parents, we often find ourselves marking our children’s growth by traditional developmental milestones. We wait eagerly for them to take their first steps, say their first words, and lose their first tooth. These milestones are important, of course, but the true markers of growth aren’t confined to developmental timelines. They’re reflected in a child’s unique personality and the choices they make.
I came to see that my daughter’s desire for pierced ears was not just about keeping up with her friends or being like Mommy. It was an expression of her individuality.
Our daughter, who has autism, has always been a determined and independent spirit. “Self-directed” is how her developmental pediatrician once described her. From a young age, she approached challenges with the tenacity of a boxer, a trait that has always stuck with me because I was wearing a Muhammad Ali shirt the day she was born. Whether learning to tie her shoes or how to regulate her big emotions, she’s tackled each task in her own way. Getting her ears pierced was just another manifestation of her growing into her own person.
In a world that often fits children into predefined boxes, my daughter is beginning to forge her own path. It’s in the songs she chooses to sing, the books she chooses to read, and now, the earrings she chooses to wear.
Whenever I look at that photo of my daughter’s freshly pierced ears, I feel pride for the confident young girl she’s becoming. But also a touch of wistfulness for the days when she was small enough to cradle in my arms.
I replied to my wife’s text message with a heart emoji. The little red heart outlined in gold hanging from my daughter’s ear is not just an earring. It’s a symbol of her blossoming individuality, a reminder that she’s finding her own place in the world, one small choice at a time.
Photo contributed by the Briggs family.