If you're the Mom of young girls, there's no doubt you've been asked this question. A lot!
Every time a friend of our daughters' would get her ears pierced I would hear it again, it became annoying. So at some point I came up with a definitive answer. "When you're 13."
Over the next several years our plans for their 13th birthdays grew grander and grander. It became the age when they would be allowed to wear make up, get older hair styles, etc., etc. Although I never allowed belly button rings or tattoos, and dating had to wait until 16, pretty much anything else they were pushing for, in their rush to grow up, got deferred until 13.
By the time each of our girls' 13th birthdays arrived, we were SO excited! The ultimate girls' day! We skipped school, started by having her hair cut and highlighted, then went to the Clinique counter where I had made an appointment for her to be shown how to apply make up. She was shown how to apply eyeshadow, blush, mascara. We bought everything the lady used and a full make up brush set. We bought her a new dress, new shoes, a purse, and went for a girls' lunch. Ear piercing came last, I had warned her that it would sting. Of course she didn't care, she was just so excited to finally be having it done!
That night, we took our completely transformed young lady out for a fancy dinner with her sister and grandparents, who were so excited for her and quite impressed with this lovely, new, young lady they were meeting for the first time. This day was so momentous in our family that when my mother-in-law was hospitalized during our younger daughter's 13th, we even stopped by to see her before going to dinner, not wanting either our daughter or her grandmother to miss out on seeing each other on this special day.
And it was a wonderful, wonderful day! For each of them in turn, as they each reached 13. They got to go to school the next day, feeling all grown up, so excited to show their friends their new look.
It made all those years of anticipation, worth the wait. One big special day, where, rather than slowly introducing new things over time, that don't feel that significant, it was all in one day. One big, exciting and wonderful transformation.
The thing I never realized until it was upon us, was the wonderful metaphor their 13th birthdays had become. You see we've always encouraged abstinence before marriage for our girls, and through their teens, when we would talk about waiting, we would often refer back to their 13th birthdays, saying how they hadn't had to sneak off, wearing make up when they were out and then trying to wash it off before they came home, or pierce their ears and then wear their hair down, hoping we wouldn't notice. They waited, for the proper time, and everyone in their lives had been happy for them, celebrated this new phase with them.
July 2010 we were so proud to present our oldest daughter to her husband, a lovely, pure bride, who at the right time would give herself to the man she loved. And the following July, her younger sister to her husband. Untarnished. Fresh, excited and full of anticipation of the life and love they would share.
Letting our girls wait to look and dress like young woman turned out to be a lesson in something far greater. There were times that they found it frustrating, as we all do when we have to defer joy or pleasure, but having experienced their 13th birthdays and the delight of all those years of anticipation finally coming to fruition taught them that some things, no matter how wonderful, are worth waiting for, worth deferring until the time is right.