The firestorm that Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen recently set off, following this innocent Instagram share of her with her seven-month-old daughter, Vivian Lake, wearing itsy-bitsy earrings and a matching necklace, hit home.
This has been a touch-and-go topic in my house for almost two years, though in a far milder manner. But this is sensitive stuff, baby girls and the passing of cultural heritage.
Anyone who doesn’t know, the attack on Gisele wasn’t pretty. Anglo mommy bloggers around the world erupted at the sight of her baby’s earring bling. A couple of them even boldly inched towards the word abuse.
Latina mothers shot to Gisele’s defense, popping up on GMA twitter feeds, “The Today Show” and Huffington Post, among many others. Piercing a baby girl’s ears isn’t cruel or vain, they noted. It’s a cultural norm in Latin America, much like circumcising boys in the U.S.
Gisele was sideswiped, but this whole thing isn’t really about her at all. She’s simply the pretty poster girl for a cultural debate that has been raging for decades. For mothers and fathers with ties to Latin America, piercing a baby girl’s ears is a rite of passage and newborns often leave the hospital with 14-karat studs in place.
It’s a celebratory kind of thing. A Panamanian friend of mine, Karina, was so excited about piercing her daughter’s ears at two-months-old, the legal age in the U.S. a child is allowed to do so, she posted pics on Facebook, surrounded in exclamation points: “Finally! Got Angelique’s ears pierced!”
Oh, boy. How was I going to get in the way of a father and his little girl? I stayed quiet, not able to tell him that I probably wasn’t going to be able to go there until preteen years. I was 12 or 13 when I got my ears pierced, as were most of my friends. It’s my comfort zone.
Logically, I know it’s safe, the American Association of Pediatrics will tell you so, though the collective choice is that mothers wait until a baby is at least four-months-old and semi-vaccinated. As well, I spoke to a local nurse who has assisted with a number of piercings and following earlobe numbing, the greatest offense to the babies, she said, is getting them to hold their heads still for a quick minute. They cry far more with shots.
So what is my issue? We have a number of little friends sporting jewelry and wear it beautifully, but I can’t seem to sway with my own baby girl.
It turns out my own cultural pull is Herculean. So where does this leave Ana, our miniature half-Americana?
Well, without earrings for now.