I dragged the peeler across another potato as my oldest daughter’s voice escalated next to me. Her edgy tone reminded me that she disagreed with my opinion. She wanted to pierce her ears again, for a third time, and seemed to have forgotten the serious discussion we had the day I allowed her to get a double piercing. That was a big decision for me. I have never been a fan of multiple piercings, but, soon after Emily’s first ear piercing at age 10, she started asking about the possibility of more. Initially, I avoided the discussion and told her that she had to wait until high school. If she still wanted to get her ears double pierced, we would revisit the discussion then.
Three years later, the first day of high school completed, Emily smiled at me and said, “Mommmmmm, you know what today is??”
I forced a deep breath out between my teeth and gripped the steering wheel. “Em, let’s talk when we get home.”
That night, we sat on my bed, and I looked at my daughter. “Emily, you know I am not a fan of double pierced ears. To be honest, I thought if I made you wait a few years, you would lose interest and not want to do this anymore. But obviously, you still do.” I then told her that I had thought about it a lot and had decided that I was ok with the decision and that we could go that weekend to double-pierce her ears. I then raised my eyebrows and said, “But please promise me that this isn’t going to lead to multiple body piercings. Oh and I really am not a fan of tattoos, just so you know.”
She giggled and agreed. “Mom! I promise! I don’t want any other piercings. I just want my ears double pierced.”
Two years later, she sat at the kitchen table scoffing at me, saying she couldn’t understand why I didn’t like a third earring and it isn’t like she wants to get her whole body pierced and it doesn’t mean she is a bad person if she gets another earring and why don’t I trust her? I set the potato down on the counter and faced my 16 year old daughter. “Em, this has nothing to do with trusting you and I never said you were a bad person.” Her face grimaced, and she started listing all the people she knew with three earrings. And then she waited, as if she just knew this list of names would cause me to rush to her side, hug her with tears in my eyes and say, “Oh darling, I had no idea. What was I thinking? Let’s get in the car right now and head to Claire’s.”
I sighed and said, “Em, I am sorry, but I am just conservative about stuff like this and to be honest, I just don’t like a lot of earrings on ears. And you know what? It really isn’t about the piercings at this point. You promised me when I allowed you to get the double piercing that you wouldn’t keep asking for more piercings and I feel like you aren’t honoring your word. It matters to me that you have respect for the agreement we made together.”
She quickly denied ever making such a promise, abruptly stood up from the table, sighed something about needing to take a shower and left the room. I returned to my potatoes.
Twenty minutes later she quietly sat down at the table again, towel wrapped around her wet head, and said, “Mom, can I please say something?”
I joined her at the table as she slowly explained, “I just want to say that you were right. I did make that promise with you and I am sorry I said I didn’t. I just….”
She stopped for a moment, trying to control the shakiness in her voice. She wanted to understand why I was so opposed to this third earring and then explained, “Mom, I think I make good decisions. I’m not wild and I’m not lying to you about what I am doing on the weekends. I just like the way the third earring looks and I don’t think people will think badly of me because of it.”
At that moment, a small voice inside of my weary brain whispered, “Lori, why are you so opposed to this?” I swatted it away like an annoying fly and took a moment to really look at my beautiful daughter.
“Em, to be honest, I don’t really know why I don’t like that look. I just don’t. I need you to give me some time to think more about why I don’t like it. But I also want to say something to you right now.”
I reflected on the last few weeks and commented about how she had been edgy about everything. Her comments were often filled with sarcasm and judgment instead of grace or compassion. I looked intently at her for a minute and said, “Em, here is what I know. One girl might wear only two small diamond studs and be the meanest, rudest girl in your class. And next to her might be someone who has multiple body piercings, pink hair and tattoos, and be the most compassionate, kind, forgiving person in the school. I know it isn’t our outside appearance that defines who we are.”
We held each other’s gaze and I knew she understood.
So much of life is spent striving to be appropriately decent on the outside, while we often neglect the important issue of our hearts.1 Samuel 16:7 says, “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” And this isn’t just about shaping the hearts of my daughters, this is about mine too. I have to be honest and admit that part of the earring issue wasn’t about just the appearance of another earring. It was also about the fact that I was worried about what people would think. Not just about Emily, but about me too.
It has been almost a year since Emily and I had this discussion, and she does indeed have three holes in each ear now. Her grandmothers weren’t thrilled to say the least. When I gave her permission, I told her that we should call this third piercing her “heart earrings.” Each time she puts the earrings in her ears, I hope she thinks about her heart. Maybe I need to get an extra piercing too.