watching a show years ago on MTV about extreme fans, and there was an episode that
featured a 14-year-old that was obsessed with Gwen Stefani. One scene showed
this girl's parents taking her to a salon to have her hair dyed pink, just like
Gwen's. My daughters were toddlers at the time, and I recall thinking all
sorts of judgmental thoughts about these parents—what kind of monsters let
their kid do that to their hair? If I wasn't so busy making homemade baby food
and washing my cloth diapers by hand, I would have called CPS immediately.
Flash-forward to when my
oldest daughter turned 13, and all she wanted for her birthday was to bleach
the ends of her shoulder-length locks.
What a difference 10 years makes, since
I gave her the go-ahead without a second thought. By this time I had come to realize
that the color of my kid's hair was the least of my worries— that innocent
show about extreme fans on MTV had given way to "Teen Mom," and I knew I was
lucky that my sweet girl wasn't asking for maternity jeggings and the spare
room for her baby daddy.
And besides, I told myself, at least she wasn't asking for a tattoo.
That same daughter turned 19
a few months ago, and the birthday present she requested this year? A tattoo. After the initial panic, I had to stop and think rationally about what this latest request would mean; after all, changing her hair color was no big deal all those years ago. And just because she was
getting some ink on her arm didn't mean she'd turn into one of those hard-drinking,
fast-living women who shuns society, kills her mate and then stores his body in
the freezer. As you can tell, I've watched a lot of episodes of "Dateline NBC."
Values are not embedded in how we adorn ourselves, but how we act.
But unlike hair color, a tattoo
is permanent, so I admit my husband and I hesitated to give her our blessing—and our funds.
We had a hard time resisting, though, after seeing how much thought she had put into her decision. Apparently it was something she had been thinking about for years and had chosen a design that meant a lot to her and had inspired her to become a musician. It was a quote by one of her favorite artists rendered in a lovely script that read, "Live for what you create and die protecting it." I
was pretty relieved to see it wasn't a beer mug or a crude drawing of Kanye's
Technically she's an adult
now, so she wasn't so much looking for our consent as for a little moral
support. And while most people I told were excited for her decision, a few were
quick to voice their disapproval of kids—especially girls— getting inked and their dislike of tattoos in general. Upon hearing the news, one friend stopped what
she was doing, looked in my eyes with genuine concern and said, "Oh no, I'm so sorry," as if I'd
just told her my kid had sprouted a pimple before prom, or run off and joined an outlaw
In the end, I chose to focus
on the words of one wise friend who said, "Values are not embedded in how we
adorn ourselves, but how we act." It made me think back on other
choices our smart girl has made and how well they turned out, even though her dad
and I stressed over each decision at the time. We love her tattoo and are glad
we supported her, although I'm not going to lie, we're secretly hoping for her next birthday
she'll just ask for something easy—like a pony.