The girl at the counter isn’t shy about her feelings. Her low-cut blouse reveals a tattoo that says, “Love is here.”  My daughter grasps my hand and looks at all the earrings behind the glass case. “Momma, I want the purple butterflies. They will look pretty in my ear.” I try to persuade her to look at the other earrings in the counter, while the girl-who-wears-her-feelings on the sleeve reminds me only gold studs can go in her ear. I nod my head in agreement.

My daughter interrupts my thoughts and her persistence can’t be ignored. “Momma, I want to wear these new earrings in my ear. The purple butterflies. I can’t get them right?” Her eyes wide and her whole world hinges on my next few words. “Yes, you can get new earring. But remember you have to take the old earrings off.” It’s her second pair of new earrings since her ears were pierced almost three months ago. In my head, I am thinking, 10 more minutes, earrings will be changed out, bill paid and will be headed back home.

“Will it hurt to take the old earrings out?” She asks me this with purpose. “Of course not, honey. It may pinch just a little bit, but it will be over before you know it.” I respond with one eye on the clock of my iPhone. She is seated in the chair and I try to spin the back of the earring. After a few turns, I realize the earring is still in the same place.

“That won’t help. It’s a lock-back. You have to pry the back off the earring.” The tattooed girl is paying closer attention to what I am doing. “I can help.” At this point, I believe this is a good idea because she is the earring professional.

“Climb on this chair honey. Hold the brown bear. We’ll put the purple butterflies in your ear in no time.” She slips on the latex gloves, pulls up her pants, and attempts to move toward my daughter’s ear.

“Umm. No. I don’t want to do this. It’s going to hurt. Momma, I don’t want to do this.” In an instant, new earrings become a danger zone. Tears are streaming down my daughter’s face and she literally will not the girl touch her ear. Every time we try to convince her that it won’t hurt, she screams louder.

We are in the middle of the mall at a kiosk. Every wail from my daughter echoes and vibrates. At this point, I can feel several eyes on me. And I hear the litany of judgments being expressed. Bad mother. After 15 minutes, we are at an impasse. My daughter has no slobbered all of her tears on the brown bear and we are no closer to putting the butterfly earrings in her ear.

I am trying to make decision on what to do.  As I try to calm my daughter down, the girl says, “In my years of doing this, I’ve never had any person react this way.” Her co-worker, who has been silent the whole time, chimes in too. “Ya, totally. This is what happens when kids are coddled too much.”

I am trying so hard to keep my composure. My daughter is still crying, with one old earring in and the other one out. While the purple butterfly lies on the counter. I’ve made up my mind that we aren’t going to get anywhere. She is spooked and I am tired. Before I have a chance to make this announcement, the girl says, “We have others. We’re going to have to ask you to leave. And by the way, if you can’t get back the old earring in her ear, the hole will close up and you will have to re-pierce her ears.”

I grab my belongings and ask my daughter to give them the bear back. I am upset at her and myself. And all of a sudden in that moment, I feel so exposed. I question my own actions about whether I am doing a good job as a mother. And if I am, why is a routine earring change causing so much angst? Am I coddling her too much? Am I doing too much? Am I doing enough?

As we head to the car, my daughter has calmed down. I manage to slip the old earring back into her ear. She grabs my hand and then gives me a hug. I realize that maybe I am enough and not enough. But I hope she always remembers the love.

The love is here. With her momma.