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Bringing Back Rites of Passage

A Guest Post by Donna Maria Coles Johnson, Indie Business Blog

When my daughter, Vanessa, was born, I made the conscious decision not to have her ears pierced while she was an infant. I studied this issue very carefully while I was pregnant and I knew that the nurses in the delivery room would perform the service for free if I asked them to. This seemed appealing considering it would save me the trouble later and my daughter would never remember the pain of the piercing.

On the other hand, I have a very vivid memory of the day my ears were pierced. I had begged my mother for months to let me have them pierced. She'd never had her ears pierced so it was not a priority for her. She kept saying that I was too young.

Finally, one day, at the shopping mall, she let me do it. I was so excited, you would have thought I had been given a new car. I waited patiently in line behind two other girls who were much younger than my 16 years. They barely winced when the piercing "gun" went off. When it was my turn, it was over in an instant. It was a simple process, but for me, it was nothing short of an introduction to womanhood.

Now, I thought, I could be glamorous. I could wear coordinating ear ring, necklace and bracelet sets. I could move my head and watch my ear rings dangle. I could catch people's attention by the way a gold hoop or a silver shape caught the light.

I had arrived.

 

 

So when it was my turn to have a daughter, I decided that piercing her ears without her knowing it might rob her of the satisfaction of the movement from one stage of life to another.

Our society today is filled with little girls who grow up too fast. Their skirts are too short too soon. They are sassy and provocative before they even wear training bras. And it doesn't help that Billy Ray Cyrus thinks it's OK for his 16 year old daughter to pole dance at an awards show designed for children under the age of 18.

Girls have the opportunity to enjoy precious few rites of passage these days. They are thrust into a grown up world without much understanding of the stages of progress toward womanhood, many of which have been reduced to rote experiences without much meaning or significance.

Vanessa Getting Hair Done 34 I wanted the process of entering womanhood to be different for my daughter. I want her to have distinct and pleasant memories of each significant stage of her movement toward adulthood. I would like to create an environment where each milestone is memorable, and where none of it is rushed.

Last month, when Vanessa turned 8 years old, she told me she wanted to have her ears pierced. Her dad and I planned a Diva Fashion Show party at the local Sweet & Sassy franchise. It was a fun day, complete with a runway, hair, makeup, manicures and pedicures for all.

Vanessa and Friends at Party 55

 

 

Several ecstatic little girls spent a few hours prancing around, giggling, modeling and feeling grown up.

 

 

 

 

Vanessa Having Ears Pierced 83

After the cake, ice cream, and presents, Vanessa's friends gathered around while my little girl had her ears pierced.

That night, we talked about the meaning of it all. I told her how it felt when I had my ears pierced -- that I felt more grown up, more aware that I was maturing, and that more was expected of me. We shared a special kind of moment that evening. We both made another step forward, she as a girl and me as a mother.

I am glad I decided not to pierce her ears all those years ago. I'm glad I didn't take the decision away from her, glad that I was able to preserve for her a rite of passage -- a moment in time that she will treasure for the rest of her life. 

Vanessa After Her Big Moment 88

I took this picture to capture the transformation I knew happened inside her that day.

 

 

 

Question: If you have children, nieces or nephews, what kinds of "rites of passage" activities have you enjoyed with them? Have you helped to prevent them from growing up too fast by preserving a special rite of passage that they can remember for a lifetime?

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Comments

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Luci Weston

@Bose, @Rivergirl: You both have good points about the world moving too fast for young girls. I agree with that. I disagree that 8 is too young to get your ears pierced with a celebrated occasion behind the event. I believe it is better to take each step of maturation in planned, controlled environments followed up with a discussion. If big events are put off (let's say until 16) then there are too many things happening to deal with each individually. Also, at that point, the chance for the discussion process to happen is probably over due to a child naturally establishing independence at that age.

I do agree that the images in our society bombard girls. They bombard me, and I am an adult!

Love that we are having this discussion. Anyone else want to jump in?

Rivergirl

I agree with Bose..I don't think we're better off at all. Independence is one thing, but IMHO, 8 years old is not the age of reason. Kids today are bombarded with sexual images they're not mature enough to understand. Teen queens dress like prostitutes, the younger girls want to imitate the look...and we wonder why teenage pregnancy is on the rise. Letting our young girls remain young a little longer does not inhibit their self-expression, self-reliance and self-esteem...
it just gives them a bit more time to make informed decisions for themselves.

Bose

A "diva" party at 8 years old! - doesn't that totally contradict the rest of the article? I'm with Rivergirl. Also, the writer was 16 when she went through her "rite of passage" and now her daughter is doing it at 8!! THAT is what's "wrong" with society today.... everything is happening quicker, earlier, faster and yet are we really that much better off?

Luci Weston

@Lisa Kasper: Choosing is key -- about all things. I agree, it is so important to establish this "tool" to make decisions early on. Let them make mistakes over silly stuff before they get out into the real world.

Lisa Kasper


I chose not to pierce my daughter Bella's ears (she will be 8 soon too)...I am a way hands on mom compared to some...but I want her to have the ability to choose for herself if she decides to pierce them later on.

My ears are pierced, and I have no idea when that was done exactly. I have always liked it, but want her to choose for herself. :)

@Donna Maria-what a fantastic party! My girlie would love that! Belle would love hanging out with Vanessa!
These are fun times! <3

Luci Weston

@suzybluejeanz: Very well put! You are right, it is all about the choices we are given the chance to make. The more the better. Even if we fail, we learn valuable lessons along the way. Mothers who do everything for their children and make all the decisions are doing the child an injustice. Vanessa is lucky to have a mother who is considering all options, it can only serve to make her self-reliant as a woman.

suzyblujeanz

Even more than the ritual aspect of the article, I appreciate what was said about giving her daughter the choice. Making a decision to pierce an infant's ears is taking away that individual’s choice. I, personally, do not like or wear jewelry. If my mother pierced my ears as an infant, my preference as an adult might have been to wear jewelry but then its foundation has nothing to do with my freedom of choice and identity as an individual.

I think it is important to teach our young girls that not only do they have choices in this world but also how to make those choices for themselves. Guiding them as they learn to make their own decisions helps them develop their self-expression, self-reliance and self-esteem...“on [their] way to running the world.” :)

Luci Weston

@Rivergirl: I know what you mean. Little girls are so precious and delicate, yet the world around them is moving so quickly. On one hand, you want them to be sheltered and yet on the other, you don't want them to be so naive that they are vulnerable. I see it in my 3 year old niece. One minute she is singing along to the Dumbo movie, the next she is singing "Poker Face" by Lady Gaga! So many images and messages to control, it is difficult at best.

Rivergirl

Maybe a b'day party is like playing dress up...but when I did it as a child it was with my mothers adult sized clothing and pumps that fell off my feet... not manicures, makeup and strapless dresses. I guess I'm a bit old fashioned and just want little girls to stay that way as long as they can. Growing up isn't all it's cracked up to be. (o;

Luci Weston

@Rivergirl: Thank you for your honest observation. We like to shake it up on Here We Are! You have a valid point about the Miley Cyrus comparison. But isn't the birthday party akin to playing dress up? Dancing on a pole is another story entirely.


@Donna Maria: You are so welcome, a mission of Here We Are is to have a dialogue about women, our lives, choices, aspirations, etc. Your article helps further this purpose.

@All HWA Readers: What does everyone think? Did this bring up memories for you?

It did for me, I remember my grandparents buying me small gold hoops. I wore them proudly for years. Like Vanessa, I was about 8 years old when I had my ears pierced. I, too, had to beg and plead...why this is such an issue with mothers is beyond me. Anyway, I do agree with Donna Maria that this is a rite of passage.

This article did make me stop and think about the rites or traditions I am NOT implementing with my niece and nephew. It is time for me to do so.

Donna Maria Coles Johnson

Luci,

Thanks for inviting me to share our special experience with your readers. I hope it inspires everyone to find creative ways to inject some rites of passage into their lives. It brought my daughter and I closer together and we have a new special memory to share that will last a lifetime.

dM

Rivergirl

I had to fight for years with my parents to be allowed to pierce my ears. I won the battle at 14 and wasn't any worse for the waiting.
And I'm sorry, but I have to take issue with the fact you rail against young girls wearing short skirts and provocative clothing....then take a group of them to a party focused on adult fashion, make up and hair. Isn't an 8 year old runway show promoting the same thing Miley Cyrus is selling?

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