My middle son beats to his own drummer. My husband and I joke that he employs his own percussion section.
So, when for the third year in a row he asks for his ears pierced for his birthday, I relent.
“Mom,” he explains, “you’re always telling me girls can do anything boys can do, so why can’t I get my ears pierced?” He has a good point.
I take him to Claire’s in the mall because really, where else do you go? He sits statute still in the chair by the front door, a show for passing shoppers.
“You ready?” He nods his head and grins.
When the earring pierces his lobe he doesn’t flinch. Instead he breaks out in the biggest smile. I know this was the right thing to do.
The next day at school, he causes quite a stir. “Is that real?” one teacher asks when she sees me in the halls. “Oh, yeah,” I laugh. “It’s real.”
For weeks, F. cleans and turns the stud just like the salesgirl at Claire’s instructed him to do. This alone amazes me. The child refuses to clean his room or even wear clean clothes on a regular basis.
We count down the days until he can remove the stud and start wearing earrings of his choosing. If you haven’t gotten it yet, F.’s not the wallflower type.
He spends several days contemplating his earring choices for his annual school photo. When the day comes, the flu keeps him home and he misses the photo altogether.
“No worries,” I tell him. “You’ll get another chance at picture retake.”
For the photo retake, he settles on a three-inch hanging Santa. Santa sits perched on his earlobe and the words “ho, ho, ho” fall down his ear as if a ladder that Santa climbed up to get to a chimney. It’s as awful as it sounds. But it’s also perfect. It’s F.
“How was the picture?” I ask when he arrives home.
“She made me take it out,” he says matter-of-factly. “So I did.”
I take a minute. “Did she ask the girls to take out their earrings?” He shakes his head no. “Did she tell you why?” Again he shakes his head.
I’m not mad. I’m steaming. To me, it’s much bigger than removing a piece of jewelry. To me, it’s about telling my child that there’s something wrong with the way he chooses to be.
I call the photographer and explain that while unconventional, I, as his parent, think it’s fine that my second grader wear what he wants for photos.
I’m raising an individual here. I don’t expect you to tell him that there’s something wrong with being who he chooses to be.” I think of all the other kids who might be wanting to stand out or struggling to find their way. Does the photographer take a pass because one has pink hair or another wears a ripped shirt? It’s a bigger issue than just my kid. I get on my soapbox and rant just a little.
“I want the photo to capture who he is,” I say. “And this is him. My child.”
The photographer agrees to re-take the photograph if I bring F. to their studio. I do.
Here’s the great thing about raising a kid who dares to be different. I don’t worry about peer pressure or bullies. I don’t worry about him fitting in. He finds his own way by creating his own unique path. And kids respond. They flock to be around him.
“Mom, you want to come see this picture?” she asks before loading the photo into their files. “You know you can see the earring, right?”