“Want to have your ears pierced?” I asked Elsa, my newly turned five-year-old. Her eyes grew wide and she shook her head back and forth.
“No, mommy! It’ll hurt. And it seems scary. No, thank you.”
We had discussed having her ears pierced several times. Every time she said the same thing, she was too scared. Every time, I felt a tiny twinge of sadness. I couldn’t wait to buy her earrings, to share my love of jewelry with my little girl.
Elsa started Kindergarten two weeks after turning five. It was amazing to see our little girl look so tiny and so big all at once as she gathered with her classmates. She had never been away from us before, we had chosen to keep her home for her preschool year. My eyes filled with tears as she scampered up the grassy hill into her new school. I could tell that she was nervous but was so proud of how she bravely walked with the other students into her classroom.
Months passed and we noticed some anxiety start to rise and become obvious. She had always been a cautious child, waiting until she was SURE she was capable before trying a new task, but this seemed deeper. Something was holding our daughter back and preventing her from advancing developmentally. It broke my heart to see my happy girl be so scared of everything.
After her winter break, we decided to really focus on building her up and seeing if we could, as family, help her to overcome her fears. Slowly, we saw small changes. She took tiny, measured risks. She cried less. She became happier. I started to see a braver, more exuberant Elsa.
A couple weeks ago we were shopping at the mall. After being in and out of stores all day, we decided to head towards the car. On our way through the mall we walked by a small jewelry store that is a popular place for ear piercing.
“Mommy, isn’t that the place where you can get your ears pierced?”
I stopped walking, probably more abruptly than I meant to. “YES!” I responded, trying and failing at hiding my excitement.
“I am thinking I might want to get my ears pierced,” my five-and-a-half-year-old said, with an air of confidence.
We went in and picked out her very first pair of earrings. She picked Queen Elsa from Frozen, her favorite character (with the same name as her). She got nervous, she got scared, but, she did not back out. After about twenty minutes we walked out with a giant bottle of cleansing lotion, care instructions, and a VERY happy girl.
Later that week my husband and Elsa were discussing an upcoming event. Knowing that she typically struggled with anxiety about certain things he started to remind her that she needed to try to be brave.
“Uh, daddy,” she said to him. “I just got my ears pierced. Someone stuck NEEDLES in my EARS. I AM brave.”
Weeks have passed and Elsa grows braver by the day. She has not had a single moment of acute anxiety like she was having a few months ago. She frequently mentions how she found her brave and how she is not scared anymore. Her principal recently mentioned how far she had come in such a short amount of time.
Who knew that a pair of Frozen earrings and 20 minutes in a jewelry store could have such a profound impact? When we made the choice to wait until our daughter could decide to get her ears pierced we had NO idea how important that choice would be. We had no idea the bravery it would take and the effect it would have on her.
“Mommy, I love my new earrings and I can’t wait until I can change them so we can share jewlery!” She was beaming at herself in my mirror. “I am so happy that I decided to be brave.”
She WAS brave and finally, she knew it.