Most parents would do anything to stop their child from being bullied, but one first grader’s parents felt so powerless to help their son that they actually turned to plastic surgery.
Gage Berger is only six years old, but already he’s dealt with incessant bullying from classmates who say his ears stick out from his head too much. He told Inside Edition that kids at school continually tell him he looks “like an elf” and has “weird ears.” The taunting got so bad that his mom, Kallie, says she was worried the teasing would permanently damage his self-esteem.
In order to shut the bullies up and make their son feel more confident, the Bergers made the decision to seek plastic surgery. They met with a Salt Lake City surgeon who agreed to “pin” Gage’s ears so they wouldn’t stick out as far. Ear pinning is a pretty simple procedure, in which the surgeon removes skin from the underside of the ear and then uses stitches to secure the ear in place. As it heals, the skin grows back where the stitches were, permanently “pinning” the ear down.
Gage underwent the procedure a few weeks ago and showed Inside Edition his results. He came out with nothing but good things to report and his parents say his confidence has soared. Look at how happy this little guy is:
Plastic surgery for a six-year-old sounds pretty extreme, but ear-pinning is actually fairly common. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, about 22,167 people underwent otoplasty — ear surgery — last year, and the vast majority of those patients were kids between the ages of three and six. Ear growth is about 90 percent complete by age five, so there’s little risk in performing the procedure on young people.
Still, some have criticized the Bergers for what they see as “letting the bullies win.” The reactions to their Inside Edition feature drew a lot of negativity:
In an ideal world, we could all teach our children to love themselves as they are and teasing would have no effect on them. Unfortunately, that world doesn’t exist. Bullying and teasing are hurtful and very real parts of growing up, and the damage to a child’s self-esteem can last a lifetime. Gage’s parents did what they could to help their son stand strong in the face of his bullies, and given how minor the surgery was and how happy he seems afterward, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Instead of coming down on parents who go to great lengths to prevent bullying, maybe we could instead attack a culture that makes it okay to tease kids in the first place. What the Bergers did for their son isn’t nearly as shocking as the fact that so many kids go to school each day thinking it’s okay to mock someone else’s appearance. If we want to prevent kids from seeking plastic surgery or other extremes to avoid being teased, then we have to focus on stopping the bullies.