The Milestone

It was quite possibly the very best day I’d ever spent with my
daughter Madison in her three-and-three-quarter years. I could
easily remember when she was just an infant. It didn’t seem like
yesterday, but it felt more like months than years had gone by.
Mary, my wife, had wanted to get Madison’s ears pierced, but I
wouldn’t let her. I’d refused to put holes in my daughter’s head
until the day she asked for them.

But in the months before her fourth birthday, Madison had been
expressing interest in piercing her ears. For a couple of weeks
there, she’d announce, “Maybe tomorrow I’ll get my ears pierced.”
But when tomorrow came, she always decided against it, stating that
maybe she’d do it the next day.

Mary and I supported our daughter’s uncertainty 100 percent. Her
mom didn’t think she was ready, though, for earrings. Her fear: The
pain would be too much, and Madison would fuss with them while they
were trying to heal. Mary figured our daughter would get earrings
when she turned 10.

I had promised to take Madison to ice cream when she finally
decided to get it done. One night in bed, she asked, “What if I get
my ears pierced when I’m an adult?”

“What about it?” I asked.

“Well, will you still buy me ice cream?”

I chuckled, “You probably wouldn’t want me to, by then. You’d be
all grown-up, maybe living with your own family.”

Disappointedly she responded, “Oh.”

“But,” I continued, “a deal is a deal! If you wanted, I’d still
buy you ice cream.”

Her face lit up. “Thank you, Daddy.”

A few nights later I heard a familiar “Tomorrow I might get my
ears pierced.” When she awoke the following morning, Madison
announced, “Today’s the day I get my ears pierced.”

Astounded, I asked, “Really?”

With an enthusiastic nod and an excited smile, she replied, “For

I had the day off and took my girl to preschool and went to the
gym for a workout. An hour later, when I picked her up, she was so
pleased to see me. As we left, Madison told everyone, “I’m going to
get my earrings!”

What had I gotten myself into? This was becoming real. I don’t
know anything about earrings. I don’t know what they feel like. I
don’t know what kind of pain they cause or how long the pain lasts.
I could feel my heart beating out of my chest as I realized, what
with Mary at work, I was going at this alone.

I reminded Madison that she didn’t have to go through with this
if she didn’t want to (something secretly inside me was wishing
she’d back out). “I’ll be okay,” she grinned. “I know it will hurt
for a little bit, but I’ll be tough and try not to cry.” Not a hint
of fear in those eyes.

When we arrived at Claire’s, an accessory store at the mall, it
was all Madison could do to contain herself. It was as if someone
had painted a permanent, toothy grin on her face. Giggles continued
to slip their way out through this smile every few seconds. The
woman informed me that since there was only one employee, she’d
have to do one ear at a time (allowing my daughter to feel the pain
in ear number one that would soon find its way to ear number two).
I explained the process, again: “It’ll pinch. Then, the lady will
do the other ear. You okay?”

“I’m okay, Dad.”

I had Madison pick out any earrings she wanted (I was completely
wrapped around her finger at this point). As the employee raised
the gun to my little girl’s earlobe, Madison had no idea what to
expect because she was still grinning like the Cheshire Cat. I had
no idea because my heart seemed nearly audible as it pounded

I saw the piercing point of the gun touch her earlobe. The smile
was immediately erased. Her mouth dropped open. Her eyes seemed to
say, “What the heck is this? This isn’t fun anymore.” Then, her
frown appeared. It looked as though my baby was going to cry. It
felt as though I was, too.

“One’s down, Sweetie. Hang on. There’s one more,” I was able to
force out. The woman pierced ear number two, and Madison was
fighting the urge to cry. She breathed in her bottom lip. Three
tears fell on her cheeks, but she still made no sound. She never
jerked her head or pulled away. It was over. I rushed to my
daughter and held her.

“You did it, Big Girl. You got your ears pierced.” Still on the
verge of crying. Truly not knowing, I asked, “Are you crying
because it hurt so bad, or because you were scared?”

“It hurt a little,” she warbled, “but I’m scared.”

I tried consoling her, “It’s over. You did it.” Still on the
verge. “Do you want to see your earrings?” She nodded with a puffy
lower lip.

When Madison saw those green stones stuck in her lobes, those
near-sobs became laughter. Her eyes brightened and the tears
ceased. She had earrings! It finally hit her. It was over. She’d
done it! My daughter really was a big girl!

The woman gave my recovering daughter two lollipops, and Madison
skipped and sang as we continued down the mall, “I got my ears
pierced. I got my ears pierced. It hurt just for a little bit, and
I tried to be tough. I got my ears pierced. Now I look beautiful.”
I didn’t recognize the tune.

Later that day Madison told me that she wanted to do it again
the next day, because it didn’t hurt too bad. During the next 24
hours she told me a few times that it hurt, but followed that up
with “I’ll be okay” and a big, bright, beautiful smile.

Madison was 10 feet tall. She exuded self-confidence and
strength. She drew strangers and not-so-strangers to her that day.
She held her head high and was more beautiful than ever. And, it
wasn’t the green stone in the earrings that made her more
beautiful. It was the milestone.

We went to four places before we found the ice cream. Madison
had never been prouder of a McDonald’s soft serve ice cream cone as
she was of the one she had that day. She even shared it with me,
although I didn’t get my ears pierced.

Or, the Day My Daughter Got Her Ears Pierced

But maybe I deserved a lick or two, because it wasn’t just
Madison who reached a milestone that day. I had also. I had taken
another step deeper into the depths of fatherhood. And with each
step I better understood being a dad, I better understood my little
girl, I better understood my wife, and most importantly I better
understood myself.

Madison is six now, and she has taught me so much about life and
love, things I could never have learned on my own. Being a father
is a lifelong journey, and each cautious step is an incredible
gift. It can be scary, but I once learned from a little girl that
we must face our fears, stay calm, and maybe cry a little, then
hold our heads high, sing a happy song, and eat some ice cream.
Thanks, Madison.


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