Stepson Wants an Earring

My nine-year-old son came home from his biological mother's house and said that he "should get an earring, because earrings are cool." My husband and I disagree. We believe that being only nine and in the fourth grade, he is too young. None of his best friends have earrings. How do I convince him not to get one? One of these days he just may come home with one because his mother took him.

--A Parent Soup member

Middlers, a term describing 10- to 15-year-olds (but your son fits), become fixated on their looks and their bodies. They try out different styles all the time, crazy hairdos or odd fashion statements. Some will dress preppie one day and sporty the next. This typecasting is what made the Spice Girls so appealing to preteens. These are the years when our children explore and develop their identity. This outward experimentation mirrors inward exploration.

Earrings are a part of dressing up and, in some cases, part rebellion. I suspect your objection also has something to do with the fact that this idea was hatched during a visit with his biological mother. Your middler's desire to bond with his biological mother over earrings is also part of exploring his identity. At this stage, young adolescents need to get to know all of their parents, so they can construct this evolving identity. Children who have noncustodial parents in their life suddenly become more interested in them. This can irk the other parents who have given so much time, love and sacrifice along the way. Let your child explore the missing part of his family; make the earring compromise, and do not worry.

-- Margaret Sagarese and Charlene Giannetti, coauthors of The Roller-Coaster Years and Parenting 911

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