Parent vs Parent: Tattoos, temporary or otherwise

Filed under: Just For Moms, Just For Dads, Media

Reading Roger Sinasohn's piece about tattoos made me sit and think for a long time. And what I finally realized is that although I am deeply deeply sympathetic to his horror about how tattoos were used to brand holocaust victims, and I respect his position that tattoos are symbolic of de-humanization and slavery, we are all see the world and make decision based on the lens of our own experience.

When we first began talking about our positions about tattoos and being parents, I raised this issue: I don't think it's necessarily appropriate to talk about tattoos and children. Perhaps this is just a reflection of my own position. I think permanent tattoos for children under the age of 18 are probably akin to criminal negligence or abuse. And I think 18 years old is too young to make decisions about tattoos. I have two tattoos, but I got both of them when I was in my thirties, so I will tell my children that when they are in their thirties, if they feel really strongly about getting a tattoo, they can get one then. Of course, they will be able to make their own decisions before that age, but I think as much as I can influence anything they do, I will strongly encourage them to wait.

I spent more time talking about kids' tattoos than I intended to. What I'd really like to talk about is parents and tattoos. Jennifer Jordan and I were talking about the ages we were when we got our tattoos and how having kids has or has not changed our positions and attitudes about tattoos.

I already had all of my children when I got my tattoos. I had always thought tattoos were cool, but I never imagined getting one. I didn't know anybody personally who had one, and it wasn't how I was living my life. Then, I got divorced and began dating a man with a tattoo. This man was a religion professor, and he had gotten a tattoo of the wheel of Ezekiel on his left shoulder, which was relevant to his dissertation. He viewed getting a tattoo as something that was perfectly normal. In religoius studies, you deal with powerful symbols, and when you find one that says something permanent and transcendant, it seems like the thing you'd write on your body. He now has another tattoo on his right bicep: The archangel Michael striking down the Anti-Christ. I married that guy, by the way.

I had another outlook on tattoos. For me, I already had stretch marks that my children still apologize to me for, and a C-section scar across my belly. I bear these scars proudly: these scars say mother. However, getting a tattoo was a way of choosing my own scarring. I don't think my stretch marks are going to improve with age, and if the tattoos don't either, well, that's okay. I am not the one who will be looking at them when I'm in my eighties: they're on my back. After the pain of labor, childbirth, C-section, the pain of getting a tattoo is less dramatic. It's nothing. And choosing symbols that are important to me was fun, great, colorful, exotic.

Since I got my own tattoos, I have noticed that a lot of other mothers have them. I see them a lot at the pool or wading pools: an ankle here, a fore arm there. People talk about who designed them, what the designs mean to them. Most of the mothers I talk to got their tattoos after having their children, and the tattoos often have something to do with their children, who mark our bodies permanently, and most importantly, mark our souls, our hearts.

I have three dragons on my back (see the image-- I chose it from this deck of Celtic tarot cards; my tattoo represents temperance), one for each son. And there is a golden lemnisgate woven through them: My love for them goes on for infinity. It is eternal, just like my sons. And, I have always loved dragons. Dragons are magical creatures, great and terrible, and they can protect you or destroy you. And they can fly. My other tattoo, on my left hip, is a voodoo symbol of protection. I bought it first as a pendant, but I felt safer having it carved onto my body. It protects my house and children from evil.

What do you think of tattoos? Not for your children... for YOU.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.