Generally speaking, I am a “parent and let parent” kind of mom. What does it matter to me if you decide to pierce your baby’s ears? It doesn’t. And if I see your daughter on the playground with pierced ears, I won’t have any level of negative thoughts about you (and I probably won’t even notice her earrings while I’m stressing about which of my kids is licking the slide). But for moms who are on the fence about when is an appropriate time to let their daughter get her ears pierced, I’ve got some thoughts.

My mom is in her sixties and doesn’t have her ears pierced. When I asked her about it, she told me when she was little she once saw an old lady with huge, sagging holes in her ears from years of heavy earring use and it kind of scared her off of the whole idea. We never really talked about what age would be appropriate for me if I wanted earrings, I just knew she wasn’t a fan of ear piercing and I didn’t have a strong desire to push against that until I was old enough to make the decision for myself.

Which is how I found myself at age 18 sitting in a Hot Topic across from a heavily pierced man with an earring gun pointed at my ear.

At a time when my friends were celebrating their entrance into adulthood by buying cigarettes or getting butterflies tattooed on their lower backs, I was expressing my independence by signing my name to consent to my own ear piercing. It honestly felt like the most adult decision I had made, even though most of my friends had had that decision made for them many years before. But this was my body I was permanently altering and I was deciding as an adult that I thought this was appropriate. I felt a sense of ownership over myself, my body and my decisions that was new and fresh and liberating.

I have a weird feeling about making that decision for a baby. Maybe some of that is because one of our daughters (we adopted as a toddler) came to us with her ears already pierced as an infant. I saw how she pulled at them, how her brothers wanted to yank on them, how they poked her cheeks while she slept. I just couldn’t think of one single benefit to having them. Fashion? Beauty? Accessorizing? What does a baby care about any of those things? And what about the moment of the piercing itself? How do you explain to a child that you’re causing them pain so they can be more fashionable? I have a hard enough time working through the tears that come with vaccinations and I feel entirely justified that those are helpful and necessary for the safety of my child. But ear piercing? I don’t get it. Which is why when we were able to make decisions for our daughter, we removed the earrings, let the holes grow closed and we’ll let her make the decision about what seems right to her when she’s ready to take on the implications of pain for the sake of fashion.

I do realize that in some communities, ear piercing of babies is the norm. I get that there are rites of passage in those groups and ear piercing may be one of them. You do you, Parents. I’m not saying there’s never a time or place for infant ear piercing, but that it isn’t right for my family. 

I want my kids to be kids for as long as possible. I want them to play in the dirt, swing from the monkey bars, play kickball in the cul-de-sac and I don’t want any “hold my earrings” concerns to cross their minds. There will come a day when my girls aren’t wrestling their brothers quite so much. There will come a time when toddlers (and their desire to grab shiny things) aren’t omnipresent in our home. There will be a time for a focus on beauty and fashion, but I have no desire to force that on my girls before they’re ready to take responsibility for it themselves. 

It’s not that I care so much about them NOT having their ears pierced as children, it’s more that I want them to feel empowered by legally making that decision on their own, when they’re ready. This is an experience of independence I don’t want to take away from them just because I think it would be adorable to buy little girl earrings. That’s why I hope to some day be sitting in a Hot Topic, watching my daughter make her own adult decision with my full support.

Maralee Bradley

Maralee is a mom of six pretty incredible kids ages 8 and under. Four were adopted (one internationally from Liberia, three through foster care in Nebraska) and two were biological surprises. Prior to becoming parents, Maralee and her husband were houseparents at a children’s home and had the privilege of helping to raise 17 boys during their five year tenure. Maralee is passionate about caring for kids, foster parenting and adoption, making her family a fairly decent dinner every night, staying on top of the laundry, watching ridiculous documentaries and doing it all for God’s glory. Maralee can be heard on My Bridge Radio talking about motherhood on "A Mother's Heart for God" and what won't fit in a 90 second radio segment ends up at