“I so wish I had a tattoo.” Out of the blue, my son made this announcement as he relaxed on the couch, home from college for fall break last week. This is nothing new for Zach. When he was a junior in high school, I noticed a file on our computer one day, “Tat File”. I opened it up to find several pics of large hairy arms covered in colorful ink. Starting on that day, I knew it was just a matter of time. At first it an age issue; now it’s a financial one!
Why the fasination with tattoos? Why the obsessive need to have something permanent on their body? These are questions I have grabbled with. Surprisingly The Wall Street Journal gave me insight.
In the September 29th issue, Sue Shellenbarger interviewed several young adults as they made this unchangable decision. Katie Pilot age 18 said, “Tattoos are a way to celebrate something that has made you stronger.” She went with an airplane symbolizing her last name and two service trips to Africa.
For those of us who grew up in the ’80’s or before, tattoos tend to have a sigma attached to them. Not so with this generation. Many see them as merely decoration; an accessory even.
How about this? Totally Stylin’ Tattoo Barbie is one of Mattel’s hottest selling dolls. Is five or six years old too young to consider your message to the world? Obviously this is totally ridulous, but it does appear that tattoos are not going away. (I had so hoped they would before my child turned 18!)
So, if they are here to stay, what’s a parent to do? I think a great place to start is with a discussion and the best way to get our children talking is with questions. Why do you want one? In the Wall Street article, some young people stated it was because they wanted something permanent. In a time when so many things are disposable, including marriages and families, some young people want something that does not and cannot change.
Others are looking for a way express themselves; a means of being heard. Some express their faith, their passions or what they love and in their generation, this is an acceptable means.
Though it might not be what we want for them, after hearing their heart, hopefully we can share our’s in a loving way. We can encourage them to think it through. How will your tattoo look when you are Grandma’s age? Will you still want to say the same thing on your wedding day? Are you considering putting it in a place where a future employer can see it?
If they still seem bend on forging ahead, we can encourage them to seek out clean studios where the risk of infection is low. We can help them to consider how the patterns and words they choose will cause others to judge them.
Bottom line, tattoos are not an indicator of a person’s heart. Some of the people I love and respect the most have tattoos. (I walked in a studio several years ago, considering getting a tattoo to express my faith and just couldn’t bring myself to do it! I hate pain way too much!) As parents, no matter what they choose or where they choose to put it, we must not let their decision be a thing that brings a breach in our relationship.
PS The winner from Monday’s “Lady in Waiting” book give away is Rachel. Rachel, could you email me at Lynn@LynnCowell.com and give me your address? Congrats!