Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Ear Ring Ear Ache

I’m not sure how it happened my children were born with an innate knowledge of complex military strategies. Studying history’s great battles and campaigns would yield nothing they do not already know and practice. Alexander the Great? Genghis Kahn? Napolean? Yea, they’re all over it.

The technique of choice for my little Weapons of Mass Destruction would be the siege: simple, elegant and effective but Grace hasn’t got the stamina to wait out this one, she doesn’t know what she’s in for.

Grace wants to get her ears pierced—that’s all. And for the record, I have mine pierced so we’re not talking an enormous issue here. But oh, it has become so much more complicated than that. As Grace careens into those teenage years she has begun to obsess about the latest party, movie, book, song or life-and-death issue with her friends and unless we're able to snap her back to reality we're guaranteed to hear about how desperately she wants to see/read/hear/do . . . fill in the blank . . . until we’re ready to sell her to passing gypsies.

A few days ago she came to us with a prepared speech about how she had reached maturity, offering as proof her ability to babysit, go to movies by herself, floss regularly and dress herself in proper coordinating color schemes. We sat quietly, knowing exactly where the tornado would touch down and when she said she was old enough to pierce her ears we had few objections to offer—Andrew even offered to do it himself but she politely refused.

The trouble started when we brought up our one concern, that she was often given to various whims and that waiting for a period of time would be prudent in establishing whether this too was a whim that would pass or a serious fashion endeavor. Okay, I'm exaggerating a little bit here but we really felt she was just a little young—something along the lines of wanting to wear make-up—and ought to wait a little, especially since she's never expressed any interest in wearing ear rings before this.

Then she moved her armies into position.

"Miriam and Paige think I ought to get them pierced," she said.

We smiled.

"They think I'd look good with pierced ears and Miriam says that when I go to dances that they'll be really really great." (You catch the hint of boys here don't you?)

"Great, so since you won't be going to dances before you're 14, you might as well wait until then."

She frowned. Her calm exterior started to crumble and it was then the arrows started to fly.

"Besides, I'm going to pay for it—and can't I do what I want with my money?" (We didn't bother to touch that legally unsound notion).

But she continued, "Miriam and Paige think it's really wrong that you won't let me do this, they're my ears [sic]." Her pronouns were a little unclear at this point but in the heat of battle who would quibble about a misplaced modifier?

This was just too much, the suggestion that either Andrew or I should seek parenting advice from two twelve year-old girls who have the ability to speak for untold paragraphs entirely in giggles—whose greatest ambitions are to see the latest Hilary Duff movie and sing the "Nooma Nooma" song (see last week's blog)—this sent us into more humor (i.e. snickers and chuckles) than Grace felt the situation called for.

She began to fume and as she was bringing out the battering rams and Greek fire (aka tears). It wasn't the piercings I objected to so much as the way the conversation was heading. But there in the trenches I had a moment of enlightenment, of motherhood nirvana, of pure genius. As she spoke I could tell her real reason for wanting pierced ears was a desire to fit in, to look like her friends and to look older and more grown up. She is due for another eye exam next month and while she stood there in front of us waiting for our Solomon-esque wisdom I quickly conferred with my attorney at the desk. He liked my idea and ran with it. He asked her to wait and think about it for a week before she decided absolutely that she was ready to do this, to which she agreed.

Not until after our self-congratulations on a fine piece of parenting were over did we realize to what we'd doomed ourselves. She did wait a week but throughout the whole seven-day period we had to hear about the issue non-stop—what Miriam and Paige think, what she thinks, what Paige's brothers think, what the mailman thinks. She's turned into the world's youngest pollster. Everyone who comes in contact with her is subjected to a Totally Objective Random Set of Sample Questions about preteens, ear piercing and parental involvement. Should parents be allowed to destroy their children's efforts at self-expression? Shouldn't mature young ladies have control over their own appendages? Should they wear hoops or dangles?

Enough is enough, there isn't an army on the planet that could withstand that kind of assault for a full week and not show signs of wear. But for whatever reason today she came to us and said that she'd decided that she would wait to get her ears pierced. Andrew was pleased and quickly gave her the good news that in place of holes in her head we'd decided to get her contacts, which of course thrilled her up and down.

Suddenly we're back to World's Greatest Parents and she's all happiness once again. What Andrew didn't tell her is that I'd planned on getting her contacts anyway and if after a week of thinking about it she'd still wanted to get her ears pierced we were prepared to use contacts as leverage. Either way the end result would have been the same—with or without her friends' approval—but that, of course, is the secret to winning the war.