Tattoo Who?

One day, if all goes well, I WILL be on your butt.

“Hey mom, can I ask you a hypothetical question?”

This is Jack’s way of introducing a subject he thinks might provoke a strong response.

He’s also driving. I’m his passenger. The smart thing to do would be to say no. No questions.

But this isn’t the blog you come to for exceptional parenting advice from someone who thinks things through before speaking. If you’ve been here any length of time, you probably know where this is going.

“Hmmm?” I say.

“What would you say about my getting a tattoo?”

Okay, phew. This question is so much better than ones about drinking or smoking or what I think about pot, or what kind of car he should buy when makes his gazillions. The answer to this kind of question won’t have me looking like a hypocrite, coping to anything that may or may not have been legal at the time, or revealing the sad truth about how little I care about cars.

The tattoo thing is kind of like a cakewalk, relatively speaking. Still, it’s a query with it’s own level of complication.

My generation is sandwiched between the group whose tattoo choices were confined to tall ships, pinup girls, or branches of military service, and that of the millennials, in which I would probably stand out, unadorned with any sort of permanent body art as I am.

Jack’s 15, and Idaho law says anyone between the ages of 14 and 18 can get tattooed legally, with consent of a parent or legal guardian. I haven’t the teensiest idea how strident our local tattoo industry is in making sure a prospective human canvas is of legal age, nor what effort they make to confirm the person accompanying said tattoo-ee is a legal guardian.

I am quite familiar, however, with how accomplished certain young people around here are in making others believe something that isn’t true. Which means that if a CERTAIN person wanted someone to believe he was of a CERTAIN age, he could probably just do his teenage Jedi mind trick.

And them BLAMO, we have a tattoo artist saying “These aren’t the droids we’re looking for, move along,” over and over while he’s inking up my son.

But, if the past is any indicator, responding to Jack’s question with an answer about legal age and laws and what your grandmothers may think is not going carry the gravity I think we need in this situation.

And it’s not like I have a problem with tattoos, either. In theory. I’ve seen some great work on some of my friends.

Of course, the problem is that Jack is not of an age where good decision-making is a hallmark, nor attention to detailed long-term plans. That’s fine when the most important choice you have to make is what to have for lunch. Deciding what image to forever imprint upon your corpus, identifying something that not only represents you well now, but with which you’ll always be happy is another matter.

When I was Jack’s age, my image of choice might have been a unicorn. I was into unicorns. I drew pictures of them. I read books about them. I had a boyfriend who constantly brought me stuff with unicorns on it.

A year later, unicorns were blasé, and I was into spaceships. I was in love with Spock (*sigh*) and drew floor plans for space stations in the margins of my notebook when I was supposed to be paying attention in history.

Today I’d be hard pressed to decide on a single image that defines me, and I’m edging toward the age where I’ll be receiving unsolicited Geriatrics Anonymous support group information in the mail.

Today, defining my favorite anything is a challenge, be it book, musical group, vacation destination, or time of year. My favorite thing can change on a dime depending upon my mood or the weather. I’m not going to let a car-obsessed 15 year-old, whose next most recent favorite thing was Legos (and before that Star Wars, then Pokemon), convince me that a treble clef on his rib cage is absolutely the right thing for him now and will still be right when he’s eighty years old.

That’s right. A treble clef. On his rib cage. Because, you know, music is so important to him. Never mind the fact I can’t convince him to practice his violin without yelling so loud I about burst a blood vessel in my eyeball.

It’s not about the image he wants tattooed, though, or the permanency, necessarily. It’s that such a decision to tattoo or not tattoo is currently in the hands of someone (me), who has yet to even figure out what she wants to be when she grows up.

So, for now the answer I have for him is not yes or no or even maybe.

It’s “go ask your dad.”

Alright, hit me. I’m sure you have an opinion one way or another on letting your kid get a tattoo at 15.

Whatever it is, you don’t need parental permission to vote. Thank you.


Photo by: Abraham Williams


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  1. First, let me say how impressed I am with your son\’s awesome grammar skills! I think I know two people who would know to say \”my getting a tattoo\” instead of \”me getting a tattoo.\”
    Go ask your dad is the PERFECT answer! It\’s the only thing that works with teenagers, since they think they know so much more than we do.

    1. He does come from a long line of grammar Nazis, but it didn\’t occur to me until just now that his grammar is usually more precise when he wants something.

      He has also been known to throw in a \”you look very pretty today, mom,\” which is a dead giveaway.

  2. I\’m not anti-tattoo (in fact, I kinda like them on men) but you hit the nail on the head on the downside to getting them. People often change their minds. Change their minds about their interests, what they like, what they\’re into, etc. I can name about 10 guy friends from high school who probably regret the silly tattoos they got when they were 17 year old idiots.

    I still think you should get a unicorn tattoo, though.

    1. You know, when I was looking for images of unicorn tattoos that I could use for this post, I landed on a couple I actually thought weren\’t too bad…

  3. I, too, loved the correct grammar.I have no experience with tattoos personally, but I have heard that it hurts like a son-of-a-gun.

  4. Ha! I won\’t even allow my boyfriend to get a tattoo at 50! If my son came to me I\’d say \”wait 10 years and then let\’s talk\”.

  5. Wow, I had no idea that kids could get a tattoo without parental permission at such a young age! Yikes! I\’m not anti-tattoo, but I agree with you, the teenage years are not a great age to make permanent decisions like that. A couple of my nephews have tattoos and I\’m not a big fan. 🙁 I\’d probably say \”Go ask your dad\” too. LOL!

    1. All of our nephews and nieces are older (by quite a bit) than our children, and all have tattoos. None of their parents do, to my knowledge. It\’s quite a thing with this age group. I\’m just holding out as long as possible.

  6. HA! My daughter is two so its hard for me to imagine having this kind of conversation with her. I loved your final response. 🙂

  7. I have a girlfriend who let her daughter get a few tattoos before turning 18. That\’s part of their family culture, and it works for them.

    It\’s not the choice I\’d make, and for just the reason you stated. It\’s awfully young to be making permanent body modifications.

    What I\’ve told my kids who\’ve asked, is that we happen to love a nice tattoo, but that they aren\’t spur-of-the-moment decisions. We think a tattoo should be meaningful to you in some way, so that you\’ll be happy to keep seeing it, forever.

    So, if they want a tattoo, and still want it when they\’re 18, we\’ll support it. But we suggest that even when they\’re 18, they think on a tattoo design for a while.

  8. My sons have made rumblings about getting tattoos, but so far so good. For some strange reason, my youngest son and I like watching \”Ink Master\” together on Tuesday nights. Maybe watching the grimaces of pain have been enough to discourage any thoughts on getting tats himself.

    1. I haven\’t caught the show, yet. It might be good therapy for my son. I heard the process of removal is far more painful (and expensive).

  9. My sons have made rumblings about getting tattoos, but so far so good. For some strange reason, my youngest son and I like watching \”Ink Master\” together on Tuesday nights. Maybe watching the grimaces of pain have been enough to discourage any thoughts on getting tats himself.

  10. My brother is a retired Marine and he is COVERED!!! He came to visit for a week when my oldest was three and she was enthralled by the tattoos. She asked him questions and talked about all the colors. The day after he left, I was on the Internet being Mom Of The Year and not paying attention to what she was doing on the floor behind me. All of a sudden she jumps up and says I look just like Uncle Steve. I whipped around to see that she had taken my gel pen color collection and covered herself in tattoos. I couldn\’t help but laugh, snap a few pictures & throw her in the bathtub.

    1. Oh that is precious! What a cutie.

      All of my nieces and nephews have tattoos, and my nephews are covered as well. The designs and colors are beautiful, I have to admit. And I\’m fairly certain they started getting inked up before 18. I\’m always fascinated by the images and colors people choose.

  11. I am a mom of 2 boys aged 8 and 7 and I do not look forward to having this talk come up at all. Why? because I have 2 tattoos. The first I got at age 23 so not a youngster who was too indecisive but what I got was a bit silly. Considering up until that point I was raised to be very very conservative a tattoo was a bit rebellious. A few years later when I met my husband who was also conservative about tattoos but liberal about other things I kind of felt embarrassed about the tattoo and regretted getting it. It felt like the tattoo of my crazy youth and I knew I would just explain it that way some day. Funny thing is I went on to have children and then I was diagnosed with a disease, also went through some pretty life changing events and overall I guess you could say I have just grown up. So when a good friend of mine was planning to get a tattoo on a girl’s trip we were going on as a tribute to her father who had passed tragically she asked if I was interested in joining her. I immediately said no way at first and told my husband thinking he would say NO WAY are you crazy. But he said to me if it is something meaningful and important to you sure do it, totally your call. He was very supportive. After all I was nearly 40 I can make a decision like that clear headed hopefully. So I set out to find a design that meant something of great impact to me. You see I have Multiple Sclerosis and I had an aunt who for over 25+ years lived with this disease in a wheel chair unable to walk and even in her darkest hours she was a positive person happy and loving life. I have had this disease for 6+ years now and I have been blessed that besides a few things here and there it really hasn’t slowed me down I can still keep up with my kids and stay active, work full time and do all the things I did before. So I had a tattoo of a beautiful butterfly put on the top of my left foot with the orange ribbon for MS Awareness in the middle because I am still flying and still moving. The decision has been I have never regretted. The pain of a tattoo on your foot is another story all together but all I can say is I wish I had put this much thought into my first tattoo.

    1. There are some very good reasons to get tattoos, and it sounds like you had one. I am glad you\’ve been blessed in your journey so far. I think your aunt is a role model for all of us.