“My wife, Jenn, and I have four children and live in Wilmington, North Carolina. Our middle daughter, Adelaide, age 8, has been asking to get her ears pierced for months. We’d researched options, looking at professional piercing studios and other shops that do such work, educating her about the available choices. Adelaide chose to go with a local piercing and jewelry store in our city.
Once there, however, she changed her mind. She sat in the chair while my wife and the piercer talked with her, but she kept looking at me, apologizing and saying, ‘I don’t want to do it’. She was apologizing for her own choices about her body, and it didn’t feel right. There was no apology necessary. You alone get to determine what anyone else does to your body.
My Dad instinct kicked in, and I said, ‘If she doesn’t want to do it now, she doesn’t have to do it. She chooses what happens to her body,’ and my wife agreed with me. we left, and I felt like I needed to take a picture of her unpierced ear, sharing in a post how important it is for us to support our children in having a voice about what happens to their own bodies.
Earlier that day, I’d bought some coffee and overheard two female baristas talking about how uncomfortable both of them had been moments before when a male customer was hanging out in the store, leering at them and making sexualized comments.
I’m currently a United Methodist pastor, but I’d served as a professional clinical counselor in Ohio for nine years beforehand, providing therapeutic support to at-risk child & adolescents (many of whom had been sexually abused), and my wife is also a former therapist. I’ve been an advocate for the church to better serve, support, and protect survivors of sexual assault. We’ve been educating and empowering our kids to be aware of the fact that they are created and loved by God, who has made their bodies to have sacred worth, since they were born.
So, when our little girl looked at me with tears in her eyes about this, saying, ‘I don’t want to do it,’ all of that was in the background for me. I supported her because so many people aren’t supported in their ability to decide what others do to their bodies, and I never want our children to doubt that their parents love, listen, and stand with them.
The birthday girl may be leaving the shop today without new earrings, but there’s a reason that she’s kept saying, again and again, ‘Thank you for understanding’. Her voice has been heard. Her choice has been honored. Her body is her own, and she knows that those who love her will respect her choices. It’s never too early to begin emphasizing these realities and empowering these expectations.
Happy birthday, sweet Adelaide. We love you.
As for the response to the post, it’s been surprising, and yet especially given our recent cultural attentiveness to sexual assault, it’s not surprising at all. I’m glad that our advocating for our daughter has struck a chord with others – I hope that it encourages other people to also know that they are fearfully and wonderfully made, beloved of God, and filled with sacred worth – may they too be assured that they should have the ability to decide what others do to them and their bodies.”
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