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The Great Earlobe Debate: Cross-Cultural Parenting

Cross-cultural parenting raises many different questions. The Great Earlobe Debate is our parenting discussion on infant ear piercing.

When did you get your ears pierced (if they are)?

For me, it was middle school. I skipped to the Wal-Mart with wild enthusiasm and a healthy dose of fear. After all, I'd heard the piercing would be performed with an "ear gun."

I imagined this mechanism as a hefty scope that the under trained woman at the jewelry counter would point at me from a good distance away and... well, shoot. I'd try not to move and we'd all cross our fingers that she had good aim.

Imagine my relief to discover it was more like an "ear stapler" than a rocket launcher. The odds of good aim tripled. (Although the crunching sound was altogether horrifying.)

But I got my ears pierced and promptly turned and cleaned them each night. This routine prevented them from getting infected in no way, but I survived.

A couple years later, I got my second holes. And my senior year of high school I got my cartilage pierced because all the cool kids were doing it. I was wearing this shirt, so I was obviously cool.

Then we had a baby.


We didn't know our firstborn's gender before she arrived on the scene. I was shocked since all the strangers in the grocery store had adamantly predicted I was carrying a boy.

I was also taken aback when my Guatemalan husband asked if we were going to pierce her ears. Oh yeah, I think I had heard that is a pretty common practice among Latino families.

The conversation came up several times during Gabriella's first year of life. Were we going to pierce her ears? I felt "meh" about it.

If it was really important to my husband, that was fine with me. On the other hand, I held on to sweet "coming of age" memories of my own ear piercing experience that I hoped to one day maybe share with my daughter.

The reality was that I spent a lot of that first year spinning in circles, waving my arms, and yelling, "What have I gotten myself into?" When the rubber met the road (or the stapler met the ear in this case), I just couldn't handle one more thing. The idea of swabbing her little ear felt like it would be the straw that broke me.

Bicultural parenting is give and take.


She's now four and yet to be pierced. I think that's worked okay for us, though I know Billy sometimes finds it strange. The reality of bicultural parenting is that we are always gleaning from both cultures to find the combination that fits for our family.

Our hope, like all parents, is to make decisions that benefit our kids. And as we co-parent with sometimes unique cultural expectations, we try to work with each other to weigh which practices from our backgrounds are most important for each of us.

We take very seriously cultural practices that we believe will help our kids connect in their cultures and strengthen their identities. Things like language and kissing and foods. And we know there are always some aspects of both cultures that will be left behind. In this moment, infant ear piercing.

What aspects of your culture are important for you to pass down? What do you think about piercing baby ears? 
Image credit: Avolore

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