“Mom, can I get a tattoo? It’s a really big deal. All the guys on the squad have one.” Oh my, the dreaded words.
As the mother of four with this one being my oldest, a 17 year old son, it was a big deal! I wanted to scream at him, “No way!” Typical parent thoughts coursed through my mind, “You’ll be scarred for life! What will people think? I won’t be able to stand looking at you with that thing.” Somehow, in the course of this conversation, I managed to keep my cool. Maybe it was because he had so calmly asked the question. Maybe it was because I knew he couldn’t get one without my help since he was underage. Ha! I was in a position of power!
“Hmm,” I calmly responded. “Why is it a big deal?” We then dialogued about why it was so important to him.
“Don’t you need a parent signature since you are under 18?” I managed without a whisper of sarcasm.
Luckily, I had an out, “Guess your dad and I need to talk about this one.”
As my husband and I spoke about the situation wondering how we should approach it without alienating our son, we did several things that helped determine our response. The first thing we did was agree that we did not want him to get the tattoo. Yeah, we could issue a dictatorial response, but was it a hill worth dying on? Was it something that our son would hold against us in years to come? Would the decision potentially set a precedent that might impact our other children? Oh my, such heavy questions we were beginning to embark on in our parenting journey.
I know that some of you are out there saying “WHAT? YOU EVEN CONSIDERED SAYING YES? YOU MUST BE OUT OF YOUR MIND!” But please, hang in here with me. As we began the prayer vigilance seeking God for guidance, I started the research. Ugh! It would have been so much easier if God had just said… “Thou shalt not get a tattoo”. Meanwhile, my husband set off to discuss it with friends who had already been down this path, hoping to get perspective.
We continued to discuss the topic with our son, not making it an issue between us…but with sincere concern as to what was best for him. He had his opinion; we had ours. We learned all the reasons this was a big deal for him. The dialogue became similar to one with an adult friend. Back and forth…things we understood…things we were having difficulty with.
We agreed to give him our decision in a few weeks after we returned from vacation. That would give us some “fun, connecting” time before we gave him our “No”. You know, the let them down easy “no”.
As we enjoyed the beach together, my husband and I agreed that our son was really maturing well. For the most part he seemed to be making good decisions. How badly would our decision impact our relationship?
And then my husband and I did the unbelievable, the unthinkable, the ‘whatever possessed us to do this’ thing… WE WENT TO VISIT A TATTOO PARLOR!
It was really quite by accident. While hanging around the dock with the kids off doing water sports, we saw it…a Tattoo Parlor on the corner…within walking distance. Knowing there was absolutely no way anyone would recognize us, we went in to look at tattoo drawings. As I walked into the shop, I kept thinking, “Father, forgive me…I know not what I am doing!” Standing there among several employees with more color on their skin than I have in my wardrobe, I sheepishly asked prices and told the girl behind the counter what we were considering for our 17 year old. She immediately had the owner to come speak with us.
As we explained our dilemma, I then asked him, “What would you say if this was your kid?” I have no idea what possessed me to ask an artist such a stupid question, but he looked just a few years younger than me. “Maybe he had kids of his own?” I thought skeptically.
Surprise of all surprises, he responded, “You’re the first person to ever come in here to ask me that! There’s no way I’d let a kid of mine get a tattoo until they’re at least 25, especially a male. Their body changes too much with muscle growth that skews the artwork, they also haven’t figured out who they are and what is important to them. If it was my kid, I’d say no.”
SHOCK resonated within me as my husband and I left. Speechless, but absolutely delighted, we laughed our way out of the shop. God had given us plenty of ammunition to back up our response!
As my husband and I sat down to discuss our decision with our son, we gave him both a biblical response and an expert’s response. Knowing why this was such a big deal to him, we created him an out. “Son, here’s the deal. No, we are not going to sign for you get a tattoo now and we’ve outlined the reasons why. If you will wait until you are 25 to get a tattoo and you still want one, I’ll pay for it,” responded his dad.
“No matter how big?” he asked.
“Ask me when you are 25.”
YES, it was a gamble. YES, we might later have to eat our words. But we were willing to take a risk at more maturity in eight years.
(FAST FORWARD to six months before his 25th birthday.)
I decided that I really didn’t want to deal with any surprises for his birthday. I had no idea what tattoos were costing these days and I certainly needed time to get used to the idea of my son with a tattoo. “Honey,” I ventured, “your 25th birthday is right around the corner. Have you given any thought to whether you still want that tattoo we offered?”
“You’ve got to be kidding, Mom. Of course, I don’t want a tattoo. You’re off the hook.”
As I sighed with relief, I kept remembering a scripture verse, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13 ESV
BOTTOM LINE: We are sometimes tempted to respond to our children’s requests with a resounding “no” when the relationship would be better served in letting them know we will respectfully consider their requests. If you do, maybe God will provide a way to let you off the hook.
Dare you to pause in your response to your child’s next earthshattering request and create dialogue instead of anger.
Double dare you to send me your earthshattering parenting situations. Maybe I’ll have a story that will give you hope!
Enjoy the journey!
“Let go…and Let God”