Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Tribal Event

Sophia's 10th birthday was last weekend. She was greatly excited and we had a carefully thought out plan. Last year's birthday sleep over was overwhelming. There were a couple kids that didn't cooperate and it pushed the whole thing into trouble. This year we decided to keep it to 3 friends, friends that Sophia had known the longest. We were trying to keep a few people from having hurt feelings by arranging it this way. It seems to have worked.

Her 3 friends were to come over on Saturday at about 5. We got a call on Friday that one of the 3 couldn't come, she had over committed. It was a bummer but Sophia took it in stride and handled it quite well. The kids watched a movie which was a big deal because we had the TV off for the month. They had pizza for dinner and stayed up until 11 talking. They did all the sleepover stuff.

The next day Bob made them all pancakes and then I took the girls out. We needed a cake for the party and thought we'd spend a little girl time and lunch time. First Fred Meyer and the cake....done. Next we headed to the mall to Claire's. What Sophia didn't know was that Bob and I agreed that Sophia could get her ears pierced. My down fall was that she already had everything else she wanted. True, sad but true. So we had the boys come up to her in Claire's and say, "We came to see you get your ears pierced."

The girls and I were walking around. They each had $5.00 to spend. Kees did the talking.... He ran in and said, "Hey Sophia, we're here to see you get your ears pierced." Just like he practiced. She was excited for about a half a second and then she was in shock. The lady came over and started readying the station. Sophia was panicked and a little pale. She couldn't do it. It was too soon. I said that was fine and that she didn't have to do it then. I wanted it to be on her terms.

The boys left and the girls wanted to go to sushi. We went to Sushi Go Round, or Sushi Train, I don't know what it's called. It the place where the sushi goes past you and you grab what you want. It's not that good but it's cheap and it's what they wanted. While we were at lunch Sophia was feeling braver. She decided she wanted to go get her ears pierced.

Back to the mall we went. We went to the Piercing Pagoda. This place has been around for EVER and it has a good reputation. When we got there Sophia started to chicken out again. The women working there were really encouraging and friendly. There was a girl who was 8 getting her ears pierced and Sophia decided to watch her first.

It all started feeling really tribal to me. The mothers bring their young girls to the pagoda. The practitioners have done this a 1001 times so they know it can be scary. They encourage the young girls and tell them, "It's not too bad." But really, the idea of getting a couple holes punched in your body is scary. We walk around to pick out the perfect first pair of ear rings....ahh yes, garnet flowers, her birth stone. How perfect for this tribal event. It will mark your 10 years on this earth and all will know you were born in the first month of the year by the stones you wear.

The 8 year old girl is there with her mother, father and little brother. She's like a stone. She's solid and couldn't care less. YOu can almost hear her, "Bring it on. I ain't scared." And she wasn't. Sophia watched with wide eyes. And then the chanting and the drums begin....boom, boom, boom, boom, Eyyeeeeaaahh, whoop, eeeeeeeayyyyyahhhh. The practitioners load their piercing guns and approach her...boom, boom, boom, huuummm, eeeyyaaahhhh. And then, one, two, three they do it. The girl barely flinches. It's over. The drums and chanting stop…… She smiles and everyone says how cute the ear rings look. She is proud. Sophia asks, "Did it hurt." She just nods, no.

Now it's Sophia's turn.....the drums and the chanting start again. Ahh, the second girl with the virgin ears....boom, boom, boom, boom, Eyyeeeeaaahh, whoop, eeeeeeeayyyyyahhhh. Sophia is a little nervous but I tell her it's going to be alright. I had pinched her ears (for practice) about 10 times and it couldn't hurt that much more. She looks at me, trusting me. Boom, boom, boom, yaya yahhhh, whoop, whoop, YYYYAW!!! Again, the practitioners lock and load. They approach, one on each side. Sophia is nervous, really nervous. As a matter of fact I thought for sure she would scream, "NO!" and run away. I am pretty sure the only reason she did it was that I had already paid. And she looks at me. I say, "It will be fine." The drums and the chanting are pounding in my ears.....and then, ONE, TWO, THREE....
They pull the trigger and it's over. The drums and chanting cease. Sophia smiles and is surprised. It didn't hurt that bad. She is proud.

Her ear rings are cute on her.

All the while I'm thinking, "I can't believe this is happening here." I can't get over the fact that all this tribal tradition is going on at the Piercing Pagoda at the MALL IN THE FOOD COURT! Is this really the best we can do for a rite of passage? We don't have coming of age traditions for our kids. WHY? Every tribe in the world has traditions or ceremonies. Piercing, neck stretching, scaring, tattoos, adornments....whatever, and they're all done with lots of pomp and circumstance. Our kids just pass through the ages with birthday parties. Big whoop. It's not at all what our genes tell us to do. I don't think we give them enough to celebrate, to tell them that their growing up is really important and a responsibility. That they are, bit by bit, becoming one of us, an adult, a community member, part of the greater society. They are leaving a bit of childhood behind and joining a new, more mature, more responsible set. At a tribal ceremony there are lots of witnesses to see you move to a new place in society and hold you to your responsibilities. Kids need community and we are lucky to live in a great one but there aren't community rites of passage.

I know this started in one direction and went another. I had no idea I would feel this way about my daughter getting holes punched in her ears. But I did. It almost felt sad, like I should have had a dinner and a bunch of people come along. I know that would be silly but I need to come up with something. I hope that by the time she is 13 I can come up with some sort of tribal rite of passage. I would love to start a tradition that felt like a big deal. I may have to base it on a bat mitzvah. That seems a little closer to home than an African scaring ceremony. Maybe there is a reason we don't do that! You know like, ahh, child abuse.

Sophia got her ears pierce. It was a BIG deal. Of course there wasn't real drumming or chanting but there should have been. It felt like it should be going on. The rest the day was fine, birthday party, dinner, friends, the usual birthday party stuff. But it wasn't a rite of passage and that is what I want for the next big event. When I come up with it I'll let you know what that is.