When I asked my daughter what she wanted for her 17th birthday, I was entirely unprepared for her answer.
“I want to get my septum pierced.”
I must admit, I didn’t know what a septum was, let alone that you could pierce it. And I’ve never been a fan of nose rings unless they’re part of your culture. Nose rings were definitely not part of mine.
But my daughter was a fan, and she had been wearing a fake piercing for a few months before she made this request. Her request might have seemed inevitable — especially if you didn’t know, as I did, that she was terrified of needles and that the amount of coaxing it took to get her to comply with a shot or a blood test was unreal. This same daughter wanted to put a hole in her nose? What was going on here?
My husband and I try to support our teen daughter’s decisions about how she wants to live her life. She usually makes what we deem are good decisions and we don’t need to challenge her much. But this time, for whatever reason, the idea of our daughter wearing a nose piercing didn’t thrill either of us. On the other hand, in one year, she’d legally be an adult and would no longer need our permission for any piercing. If our daughter was truly determined to get her septum pierced, it made more sense for her to get it now when I could monitor her aftercare.
My daughter got a nose piercing. (It wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be.)
I went with my daughter to the store to get her piercing, feeling pretty uncomfortable the whole time. I cringed just thinking about piercing the septum and how it was going to really hurt.
Turns out, my fears were unwarranted. My daughter declared the piercing didn’t hurt at all. When it was done, she looked at herself in the mirror, thrilled. Meanwhile, I paid the cashier, nonplussed.
I thought the next hurdle would be hygiene. My daughter was still a teenager, and I was a little concerned she’d end up with an infection. However, once again, she surprised me. She completely complied with the aftercare instructions; the hole in her septum healed up just fine. I still didn’t like the piercing, but she had impressed me with the responsibility she showed in taking care of herself.
Other people’s reactions to my teen’s septum piercing held up a mirror to my own.
I thought our extended family would judge my daughter’s septum piercing poorly because last year my niece raised some eyebrows when she got a piercing on the side of her nose. But, as often happens, once the first family member does something surprising, the next one to do it gets a gentler reaction. And so my daughter’s piercing was no big deal as far as our extended family was concerned.
Other moms weren’t as accepting. A few said things like, “Ohhh, you let her get her nose pierced?” The question might seem innocent, but not so much the tone. There was also that one friend who called me “the cool mom” because I allowed my daughter’s piercing. I accepted her compliment (was it a compliment?) without admitting I definitely wasn’t cool with it at all.
Later, I took my daughter to the doctor for completely unrelated allergy issues. The allergist, a woman in her sixties, casually mentioned that she could not understand why anyone would want to put a ring in their nose. She may have said nose rings were awful, I don’t remember her exact words. What I do remember clearly is that I sided with the doctor, something I now deeply regret having done.
When we left the doctor’s office and returned to the car carrying prescriptions for nose sprays, I realized my daughter was very upset and I asked her why.
She told me the doctor’s comments made her feel ugly and like a weirdo.
Immediately, I realized the doctor’s mistake, and mine, too. The doctor was supposed to treat my daughter’s allergies. We came to her for medical advice. She had no business sharing her personal opinion about my daughter’s piercing, especially when her comments were rude and insensitive to my daughter’s feelings. She had been unprofessional. Worse, by agreeing with her, I had been insensitive to my daughter’s feelings, too.
A few takeaways from our septum piercing story.
I want my daughter to feel comfortable in her own skin. I don’t want her to feel like she needs to justify her decisions about her body to anybody.
As her mom, I think it’s my job to listen closely and not impose my opinions on her. I need to remember that even if I don’t like something my daughter enjoys, or even if her choice differs from mine, it doesn’t mean she’s doing something bad or wrong. My teen is not an extension of me — she’s her own person with her own likes and desires and it’s okay if her choices don’t line up with mine.
My daughter is now 19 and in college and I’ve gotten so used to her septum piercing, I wonder why I thought it was such a big deal. I think I was simply uncomfortable with something unfamiliar.
The other day, I told her truthfully, “The septum piercing doesn’t bother me anymore and I hardly even notice it.”
“Good,” she said, “because I’m thinking of getting one on the side of my nose next.”
You know what? That’s fine by me.