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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

ear piercing [Poll Alert!]

When we were little, my dad educated told us about the many samskaras or rites of passage that have significance and value in our lives from birth to death. Of the sixteen commonly practiced ones, I understand and appreciate the meaning and beauty of a few of them like:
Namakaranam: the naming ceremony
Annaprashnam: introduction of solid food to the baby
Aksharabhyasam: introduction to formal education
Upanayanam: embarking on the study of Vedas for boys
Vivaaham: wedding rites
and last but not the least
Antyeshti: last rites.

Some of the other samskaras haven't made much sense to me, but I am trying to learn more. The two that particularly confound me are: karnavedha (ear piercing), chudakarana (tonsure).

I was not much for tonsure, and anyway, Ana was practically bald at birth and still has very little hair at two years... the baby hair is considered impure and if left on is supposed to bring ill-luck. I tried that angle with D... he responded logically by pointing out that American and many European kids do not undergo tonsure and seem to live fine, so, why do I think this will affect Ana?

When approached from a different Belief System, I can see why he considers some of these rites of passage as a form of mutilation violation ummm... what's the right word here? something unnecessary...

However, I badly wanted to get Ana's ears pierced around when she was 7 months or so, as a samskara, rite of passage... (probably more for me, than for her)

Now, having 3 piercings per ear myself, one in each ear from babyhood, and 2 more per ear from adulthood, and having had 2 of the 4 from adulthood get infected and wait to heal so I can get it done right again, I think I do understand a bit about ear piercings...

But, D, not being from India, and not familiar with how ingrained this samskara is, simply refused. He said we should wait till she is older, understands what it means to get her body pierced, and ask for it, and then, we can consider the ear-piercing request and make a decision.

I respect that. I don't necessarily understand that. I don't really agree with that. But, Ana is as much his daughter as mine and we get to make that choice together.

Anyway, he got me thinking... he wanted to know why exactly I, as her mom, wanted her ears pierced at such a tender age, setting aside the fact that it is cultural and it is a girly thing to do. What advantage did I see in getting her ears pierced now, when she has no choice in it, rather than waiting a few more years when we can explain it to her and see if she is up for it?

Now, as a baby, they don't play with their ears much and this gives the piercings a chance to heal and settle well. I've seen it done to my cousins and other kids in the neighborhood when I was in India.

So, anyway, that's where things stand. We will wait, if that is what D wants to do. Ana looks longingly at my ear-rings and puts it up against her ears, but, not being pierced, she can't wear them. Of course, there are clip-on ear-rings and when she is older, she can try some on, no big deal...

Yet, somehow, I feel a tinge of anger irritation that I can't get Ana's ears pierced and deck her up with all the nice gold ear-rings my mom has given her...

Why? I do not know...

Anyway, dear moms (and dads, and not-yet-moms), if this ear-piercing has been part of your upbringing and culture, and you have wrestled with it, please take a moment to let me know your choice, by answering the poll on the right side bar.

I am hoping to post a poll question each month on the right sidebar to gather your input and appreciate all your responses...

addendum: September Poll Results

Q: Would you have your baby's ears pierced to keep up family tradition and custom?

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At 7:54 AM, Blogger Dee said...

yes, I had Chintu's ears pierced and yes he is a boy. I did it mainly to continue the tradition and I have not regretted it one bit. I am proud that I was able to continue this harmless tradition to one more generation ..and I will respect whatever choice my son and his wife will make when their turn comes. I was done under the most sanitized conditions...the paranoid that I am. My baby cried for exactly 2 mins and forgot about it. I had it on him for a couple 4 months before taking it off.

At 1:06 PM, Blogger mnamma said...

I got Madhu and Nandhu's ear pierced after they completed one year of age at our family's kuladheivam temple. I do admit that I was so much distressed when they were crying for several minutes after the piercing inspite of the local anasthetic solution. There was also a disinfectant applied on the ear lobes. But in our family they say that piercing ears results in certain health benefits because of the simualtion of certain points, kind of like acupuncture. The same goes for women wearing mookuthi. I don't wear mookuthi but I was under a lot of pressure during my mariage to get my nose pierced. Again our family elders say that wearing a mookuthi is not only beneficial to myself but also to my hubby. I believe that any tradition that we follow does have a significant inner meaning, though some do become obsolete as we evolve. It is really a matter of personal choice and the circumstances and situation that we are in.

At 1:48 PM, Blogger Dee said...

I agree with the end of the day...its a personal choice.

At 6:47 AM, Blogger the mad momma said...

my two cents. though i can understand that if ur husband isnt Indian he won't appreciate it. a lot of what we do is simply tradition... or simply because we want to see our girls that way. it doesnt have to be logical. just as we choose life partners from across communities and cultures. not everything can be dealt with logically :)

At 12:03 PM, Blogger Kodi's Mom said...

I still havent pierced Kodi's ears, much to my MIL's disapproval. I didnt have the heart to do it when he was 3m (which was pbbly the best time to do it) because I couldnt see the justification in it. it is not like he's going to be wearing earrings!! I know there is some vedic reasoning for this - I don't know precisely what...left to mine and DH's ways, we wouldn't go thru the ceremony (and he'll probably grow up and pierce his ear, just to annoy me!!) - but I doubt we'll get away with that.

At 12:46 PM, Blogger Sheela said...

thanks a bunch for sharing your thoughts on this dee, mnamma, the mad momma and kodi's mom...

just curious: if you leaned towards piercing, could you drop a note and let me know if it was a joint decision with your spouse or, if the spouse didn't lean one way or another so it was entirely your choice?

no pressure, you can ignore that question if you don't feel like answering it... and, if you don't want to share your answer here in comment space, feel free to email me - i will add an "Email Me" link to the right sidebar on the blog soon. thanks!

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