Teens love piercings

It was dark outside. Instead of being tucked into bed watching reality TV where I belonged, I was spending the last hours of my daughter’s 14th birthday in the back room of a downtown tattoo parlor.

Wait, it gets worse.

I sat stiff on a couch gripping my mother’s hand as some bald dude with a face full of holes stuck a needle through my baby’s ears.

Does it hurt? I asked stupidly, as I squeezed my mom’s hand on the bench beside me. We were both in the throes of pretending blood wasn’t dripping down that delicate lobe. My not-so-little girl grinned through clenched teeth, through pink face. Pride unmistakable.

For about a month, I’d been asking my daughter what she wanted for her birthday.

Gone are the days I’d be the hero by surprising her with a decapitated Makeup Barbie head or a fairy princess costume, or a grown-up purse, or a phone. She’s got all that, and more. So much more, that on any given day, her bedroom looks just like a store fitting room does after I’m done with it.

This year, she came up with the big gift idea right before her big day. What she really wanted – all she wanted – were more ear piercings, bringing the grand total to six, including the piece de resistance, one brand new cartilage punch.

I’m a big believer in parenting balance. Then there are moments like these when I find myself tipping back and forth between getting stomped all over by my kids or chaining them to the house.

More often than I’d like to admit, I’m what I call a Rug Mama, letting my kids wear me down because I just want to be liked. I know I’m off balance when my No not only does not mean No, it means how about you whine, cry, shriek, slam doors and do whatever else it takes to get a Yes. It’s a sick feeling, like being strapped into a car your kid is driving, and you’re freaking out they’ll miss a stop sign, and it’ll be your fault because you sucked at setting limits.

That’s when I slam on the brakes and end up with the opposite parenting problem – the Chain Mama who just wants her kids home. Safe. Basically chained to the house. I know I’m on that side of balance when I’m shaking my head NO before their question is even out. But that’s not fair to anyone. If there are too many No’s without negotiation, I worry my kids might start sliding open windows to escape, even if they have to jump and break their necks.

So there I was, the scale tipping side to side on my daughter’s birthday gift. I had a battle going on my head.

Rug Mama: Yes! Do it, Cool Mom! Let your Cool Girl decorate her body the way she wants. It’s fashion! It’s freaking art!

Chain Mama: She is 14. You do not need to drive your child around town desperately seeking a place that will perform crude surgery on her because that’s what she wants before midnight. Bad idea. No, no, NO.

Just three birthdays ago, my daughter sat in a chair in the mall jewelry store and held her breath as the gun fired tiny green emeralds into her ears. Seconds later, she could sport earrings – just like her mom.

I had a second hole and a cartilage pierce once too. True, I was 18 and finally let them seal up after they burned like hell and dug into my scalp for months, but I get the pierce appeal. If I said yes to my daughter, though, what came next? Would I be OK with the nose ring? The tongue pierce? The belly button diamond? How about a few tattoos?

In the end, after much discussion and waffling, all packed into a matter of a few hours, I granted part of her birthday wish. The extra lobe pierces were a go, but the cartilage would be parked – for now. Balance? Maybe. Like so much of parenting, it’s a subjective word.

Once I made the decision, the celebration began. We conscripted Grandma to join our adventure, and we three generations headed to some not-quite-seedy spot with a case full of silver studs and rings, populated by leather-bound punks who were only too happy to do the deed. It was far from the mall experience.

And there I sat, sad and proud and a little out of place, saying Happy Birthday to my child by letting her subtly change.



About randi

Randi Chapnik Myers & Mara Shapiro don't get fazed by their teens. At least they try not to.


  1. No worries–my daughter got her first at 9, then after the age of 14 wanted a few more-got the cartilage, and 3 in each lobe, and pierced her nose herself at a friends house. Well, now at 16 almost 17, she only has the cartilage and 2 in each lobe. Got a head cold and the nose one went away pretty fast about a year ago.
    Did I lose sleep and have stomach aches about it-yes, everyone says its a phase-and It pretty much is.

  2. My daughters (12 and 9) both have double piercings in their ears and my 7 year old wants a second set as well. My 9 year old has been pestering me for a 3rd set. I told her no, not until you are a little older. I am drawing the line at cartilage though. I’ve seen too many people have problems. If they want to do it when they are 18, then they can do it without me. Unfortunately, we have close family friends who have teens with multiple cartilage piercings, belly button rings AND the 19 year old daughter just got a tattoo. I think I might be screwed.

    • I hear you. Mine has friends who swear the cartilage feels just fine. I’m telling her different but hey, anyone who wants to train their minds to sleep on the other ear for the rest of life should be forced to live with that decision, no?

  3. Yeah. The cartilege. It seems to have replaced the belly button ring. DD12 mentioned it to me also. Then I told her when I had a cartilege earring…got it in my mid-30s (don’t ask) right before I met my husband. Why? Cuz I was late 30s cool, that’s why! Then one day, I woke up to one flesh coloured ear and one completely purple ear. Earring out. Ear back to normal. End of story.

  4. One of my sons has piercings in places on each of his ears that I couldn’t possibly have thought one could pierce, he also has a piercing below is lip and had an eyebrow piercing that migrated out of the skin (scared for life). As a mother I view this as a part of his identity, and really at the end of the day he is an excellent student (in university) and a great brother, friend and son…..he is who he is and it is what it is!!

    • I Love that Jodi!
      You see your son for WHO he is and by doing that and letting him express himself this way, you are teaching him not to judge people for how they look. yay for you! :o)

  5. You are a mom hero. I become a raving fan around people like you. Thanks for some perspective from the other side.

  6. Pam @writewrds says:

    Really great story, Randi!

  7. Thanks so much!

  8. The only piercing I have a problem with is the one in the tongue, otherwise I’m okay with them.

  9. I can’t picture my boys wanting to be pierced..but I definitely see tattoos in their future ( maybe because their dad has 4 and I have 10) and I will be okay with that..as long as it’s at an age I agree with, it’s a design that has meaning and it’s at a tattoo place I know is safe….Piercing creeps me out a bit, but I believe in the importance of not telling kids who they should be, but encouraging them to figure it out for themselves.

  10. We’ve begun the negotiations with our daughter. She wants her ears perched now at age 8, I say she should wait until she’s old enough to care for them herself, at least 10. Great points, it’s difficult sometimes to know where and when to draw the line between cool mom and no freaking way mom.

  11. Taking care of them is pretty easy. The interesting part is that if they don’t take it seriously, it actually hurts. One of those true life lessons we Moms can’t teach.

  12. I just took my 11 year old for her second piercing. My husband took a little convincing, but what sold him was my story about piercing my own second hole using earrings when I was thirteen and not allowed to have it done!

  13. Ah, the Chain Mama who drives her kids to jump from windows. I knew it!

  14. I am constantly considering whether I’m being Chain Mama or Rug Mama. With 17 and 19 in the house, it’s a never-ending dance. But Mr17 just had his birthday and we got him…an appointment for a tattoo. Ms19 belly piercing is looking real good right now. But she got a tattoo at 18 and, oh yeah, she asked me to get one that matched. So I did…

    • I’m kind of looking forward to where you are – reactions that are more rational and less emotional, decisions thought through. Or maybe I’m kidding myself.

  15. Piercings go away. Tattoos are forever. I don’t have a problem with piercings, even on teens.

  16. I’m a teenager, and I personally think piercings should be moderated. Maybe it’s how I was brought up; both my parents let me decide (while most of my friends got their first piercing younger than 5, I got mine at 11) whether I wanted earrings, and I ended up getting them at a pharmacy,
    I think two or three earrings on each ear is okay, but I’m not keen on facial piercings (ESPECIALLY tongue and lip). Mostly, I think the problem is getting them at tattoo parlors, because that can be unsafe. If it is a reputable parlor (if such thing exists), then fine; but some parlors reuse needles, which can transmit diseases and infections. It’s really rare, but it happens.
    But good on you for trusting your teen and letting her decide 🙂


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