London - Gracie-in-the-middle is regarding me with silent fury.
She’s extremely cross that I won’t let her have her ears pierced. She’s drawn a scary picture of an unsmiley face, coloured it in red and stuck it to my bedroom door and angrily stomped off down stairs.
On Tuesday this week my little blonde Tasmanian devil-of-a-daughter turned 11. The childhood years are beginning to roll back, allowing the illogical hormones of the pre-teen and teenage years to cascade in.
I’ve already witnessed a little of what is to come in her older sister, who is 12, so I’m all buckled up because it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
For my two eldest girls, all this growing up is the beginning of their liberation. For me, it’s the opposite. I feel like I’m being imprisoned by two unreasonable lunatics whose personal hygiene is surprisingly questionable and whose attention span is on a par with Justin Bieber’s. I don’t think they’re ever going to let me go. Well, not at least until they can drive.
Gracie claims I’m the illogical one, though. She says that every girl in her class has her ears pierced, then she adds that her best friend is having it done this weekend. Her friend’s mom - who is something of a hero in our house anyway because apparently she ‘never shouts’ - has already agreed.
The pleading is relentless, which, as any mom of a girl child will know, is a particularly vicious form of torture.
‘Why can’t I have it done?’ she implores for the millionth time. There’s even a hint of fake tears in her cobalt blue eyes. But ‘why’ is the Pandora’s box of a question from a child as contrary as Gracie.
From a young age, our lovable Gracie has had a bad case of ‘the opposites’. For example, she’s the little one who would plead to wear flipflops outside in gale force wind and rain, then demand to know why you made her put them on.
She’ll beg for a playdate with another child you’ve never heard of, but refuse to go on the day. You get my drift.
While I do think 11 is too young for pierced ears, that’s just my opinion, yours may differ - age isn’t my worry here. No, what I fear is her constant testing of the boundaries of mother love. How can she get me to say ‘yes’ is what she really wants to know. Besides, it’s going to hurt, and that will be my fault, no doubt.
I test the waters with other moms and opinion is mixed. Many had their children’s ears pierced as babies for cultural reasons, which I respect. Some have allowed it and had no problems, while others have had repeated trips to the GP. One even spent a night in A&E having an earring cut out, so painful was the infection.
Also, Gracie has a devil-may-care attitude when it comes to safety. She is a blindfold-trampoline bouncer, she’s the one who likes to spin round at 100mph and then run as fast as she can, just to see what happens. She also has a sinister side: she wrote ‘paid assassin’ as her dream job for a school essay.
I’m always relieved when I return from a rare night out, to find that the babysitter isn’t taped to a chair with a Nerf gun at her temple.
Mothering this have-a-go youngster is a challenge, and mostly I just look the other way and wait for the screams.
I have a sneaky feeling that if I say yes, and she gets the ears done, she’ll want a buzz cut and a tattoo by the time she is 13. She’s been to London’s punk paradise, Camden Market, and she knows what’s possible. Besides, I have said ‘No’. It’s got to mean ‘No’ hasn’t it?
Today, though, it dawned on me why her campaign has been so rigorous. My eldest pointed out that we’ve told her 13 is the right age for pierced ears. ‘If she gets hers done now, that’s not fair,’ she points out reasonably. ‘It means you probably do love her more.’
And indeed she is right. That is why Gracie needs me to say ‘yes’ so much, to prove my love and trump her sister. Nothing is ever what it seems with this mothering malarkey.
* Lorraine Candy is editor-in-chief of Elle magazine