I took my 9 year old daughter, Miss A, to get her ears pierced today.
I told her she could get them done once she turned 9. That milestone came and went in August, but she was hesitating then, and I wasn't about to push it - I wondered, secretly, how ready she really was, how tolerant of the pain and maintenance she'd be. The voluntary infliction of a wound on oneself isn't, after all, a decision to be taken lightly, even when you're 9. (Perhaps especially then).
A couple of weeks ago, though, she started asking to get the ears done. I held off a while, wanting to be sure she was sure, but she became even more insistent that it was something she wanted to do, that she understood that it would not be painless but that she was prepared to do it anyway.
So we went out today, just the two of us, to the hairdressing salon at the local shops which does ear and nose piercings. ("Where do people go for belly buttons and tongues and eyebrows and stuff?" Miss A asked curiously. "Not HERE," responded the technician with an emphatic shudder. "Ugh!").
As Miss A selected her earrings - green peridots, for her birthstone - the technician said to me in a low voice, "I'm a bit reluctant to do her, actually."
"Oh, why?" I said, a little concerned, thinking, What, does she have weird earlobes or something? They look perfect to me, but I'm the mother...
"Usually we have two people to do it. We do both ears at once. It's better, with kids. 'Cos they get a shock and cry and they won't sit still for the second one." She looked at me. "You don't want to bring her back next week, do you? When there's two of us here?"
I thought about it. Miss A is not always the most physically robust of individuals, nor has she been especially noted in the past for her stoicism in the face of pain. I decided, in the end, to trust her to make the choice.
"A, hon," I said, "They are going to have to do your ears one at a time. That means that even if the first one hurts, you'll need to keep still for the second one. The other choice is to come back next week. What do you want to do?"
And A didn't hesitate. "Do it today," she said firmly. "I'll be OK. I want to do it."
I could tell the technician was still sceptical, but we sat down and ears were swabbed and marked. Then the gun came up and POP - the first earring was through, and A hadn't even flinched, let alone cried out. With the second side, she did grasp my hand, and gasped, but she did not move a muscle, or cry out. She stayed perfectly in place, a calm Amazon, watching herself in the mirror as the little green gems found their home in her flesh.
Afterwards, the technician was full of congratulations at her bravery, and I told her I was proud of her. She smiled at me.
"I wanted them, Mum," she said simply.
And I kissed her head, almost level with my chin now, and released another part of her babyhood to the warm sky, as we went to eat ice cream and be together.