I know most of your are thinking what do tattoos and parenting teens have in common. I have to say when I was a mom of 3 toddlers I would have been shocked by such a title. This title would have brought on comments such as, “If she was a good mom she would not have to worry about tattoos.” Fast forward about 15 years and boy has my perspective changed. Raising teens in this generation is far different than when I was a teen. These kids are bombarded with media images and the peer pressure they face is suffocating. Most teens are in fast forward. My mom would have freaked out if she would have had to talk about teen pregnancy with me at the age of 10, but that is the new reality. Let’s just face it with shows like MTV’s 16 And Pregnant on the TV you have to be up front with your kids or they will find the information out there somewhere. So where do you start? What limits do you put on your child? More importantly what are realistic boundaries?
I think I have raised good kids. They take their Christian faith quite seriously and try to live a life that makes their Savior happy, but they are teens. They are curious. I see my kids struggle everyday with who they want to be. As a parent I try to let them explore, but I definitely put a leash on their curiosity. This brings me to my tattoo dilemma.
My son is wise beyond his years, with a unique perspective on life. Although he is only 16 he is very well accomplished. He is about to finish his first semester of nursing school in a couple of weeks on track for the Dean’s List. Nathaniel is very independent. He has gotten his first job, enrolled in college, and signed up for many scholarship opportunities without a bit of assistance from his father or myself. So when he came to me with the declaration that on his 17th birthday he was going to get a tattoo, his continued independence did not shock me. All he needed was me to sign the consent and he could get his tattoo. Alright, hold up. Let me step back and take a breath. My son is a musician, a rock star, and has always followed his own path when it comes to his appearance. I have to say I have been quite lenient when it comes to his look as well. The earring, hairstyles, clothes…it has all been his choice. But a tattoo, that is permanent and requires more of my guidance.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a problem with tattoos. If that is how a person chooses to express themselves, good for them. I just think a teen needs to have some adult guidance when it comes to something that will be applied to their body permanently. Up until now all of his fashion statements were not so terminal, earrings could be removed and hair grows back. So my husband and I sat down with my son to discuss the tattoo matter. We explained to my son that everyone is not as open minded as his family. Tattoos can change a person’s first impression of him. He also needs to remember he will be entering the medical profession at age 19. It will be hard enough to convince an employer to have confidence in a 19 year-old RN, add a few visible tattoos, and the job search could become even more difficult. Nathaniel told us he never thought about those issues. He still says he wants a tattoo, but he has to put a lot more thought to content and location.
I still don’t know if I am going to give my permission for the tattoo. And you do have to remember even though he is very mature, he is a teen and he may change his mind a thousand times between now and then. However, I feel like I did my job as a parent. We sat down and discussed his request. His father and I listened to his concerns and we brought up points he had never considered. I really think that is our job as parents to teenagers. I have found guidance works so much better than, “because I said so” approach. I am no “expert” on raising kids, but I hope my tattoo experience helps you remember to start a conversation with your teen when they have an eyebrow raising request. Wish me look on the whole tattoo thing.