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Tattoos And The Art of Raising A Child….by Judy Davis

So I get this call yesterday….. Ahhh the stress of any mother with college age students. You know how it starts…”Hi mom, promise you won’t be mad”….yep there it is – the instant rise in mom’s blood pressure and stress levels. I wonder once again is raising a child ever easy?

Now you can imagine the thoughts running through my mind.  Was there an accident, did you fail a class (wait it’s only 6 wks into the semester so nope that’s not it), are you hurt…..and then my motherly instinct goes on high alert and I ask the question that I’m not really sure I want the answer to….ok here goes….

“What did you do”?

Wow….was all I could say, it was the only word that came out of my mouth when the instant message came across and I discovered what he did.

Smack dab on the side of his torso, big as an oversized football, was a HUGE tattoo still sporting a hue of angry red.  It covered every beautiful rib that I had carried for 9 months.  It covered the skin I had scrubbed raw when he and his sister drew permanent marker tattoos on each other after a trip to the circus. And it was responsible for the excitement and pride that my son’s voice carried. Such a monumental thing, and WOW is all that could come out of my mouth.

You see I’m not opposed to tattoos.  I’m not even going to pretend that I haven’t thought about putting a phoenix bursting out of  the flames somewhere on my body 🙂 .  But here I was, staring at the enormous tattoo that now adorned my sons torso, and I was speechless.

Thankfully it was well past the time I’m usually in bed (which is a running family joke around here, btw) because I’m sure my initial reaction wasn’t what he was expecting. And the fact that it was late in mom-ville, made my reaction a little easier to understand.  I’m not sure what he expected. Yelling… maybe,  Excitement… hopefully,  Questions… sure;  but “Wow“, nope not a usual “Judy” response.

But after I had some “processing time” (and a good night sleep), I realized why “WOW” was all I had come up with in such a big moment for my son.

[tweet “Take pride in the stuff that matters, and let go of the stuff that doesn’t”]

The tattoo represented so much more than ink on skin.  Sure it had meaning to my son, in fact it was a tribute to my dad who passed away in March 4 years ago. But more than that, it was a right of passage in a way.  It was his way of exerting his independence and letting the world know a little bit more about who he is on the inside.  You see my son is quiet, but like the old saying “still waters run deep”, he is a complex individual with deep emotions and a caring soul.

Even the placement of the tattoo is so “him”.  Unless he wants to let you into his world, you will never know that it exists. He researched, he considered, he analyzed, he discussed and he decided.  And I know he didn’t enter into this without weighing the pros and cons.  He didn’t do it on a whim with a bunch of friends.  He actually had been planing it for years.  But yesterday he had lunch with his sister, presented his case and the two of them went together to ensure that he got exactly what he wanted within his budget – at a place that was reputable.

So why “WOW”.  Because, while a tattoo may not be a traditional right of passage for someone, for my son it was.  Making such a permanent decision, something that would be with him for the rest of his life, marked the moment that he grew up in my eyes.  He made a decision and chose to live with the consequences, no matter what they turned out to be.    He had no way of knowing if others would be disappointed, or if they would support his decision.  But he made it, knowing that whatever happened he had the confidence and strength to handle it.

And isn’t that what we as parents want to teach our kids.  Don’t we want  them to grow up and take responsibility for their choices, no matter what the consequences.  Isn’t the goal to teach them to make decisions based on their dreams by gathering the facts and taking action in a responsible way.  And that’s just what he did.  He considered his budget and how making this choice would affect his social life and his summer plans.  He talked to various people gathering information so his decision was an educated one.  He used all the “lessons & tools” we spent a  lifetime sharing with him. And he actually applied them in a way that enhanced his life. And this may come as a shocker, but I’m glad he did it without getting our permission or approval before hand!

Now you may be saying didn’t that make you mad, but in reality I am doing the happy dance. For some people (like myself) getting  “permission” or “approval” before they make a choice is something they struggle with their entire life.  They live with a constant worry that their choices won’t be accepted, and they hold themselves back because of it.  So when my son didn’t need our permission or approval to take action on something that was important to him and it didn’t affect anyone in a negative way, I was glad.

I’m glad he took action on something that was so personal.  Part of me is proud that he considered our input, and used the lessons we have taught him since he was a baby to follow his dreams in an unselfish and considerate way. Is it something I would have suggested?  Not so much.  But by the same token, I can’t negate that the way he did it was so mature and thought out.

And as his mom, I hope that every permanent choice he makes from now on is done exactly the same way, and that he turns to the people who have always had his best interests at heart when it’s time to make those decisions. So for now I’ll let go of the fact that there is a HUGE (did I mention how big it is 🙂 masterpiece permanently affixed to my son’s body, and take pride in the fact that he made this choice in a responsible, respectful and adult way.


~Judy Davis, the Direction Diva is a motivational speaker, author and lifestyle blogger as well as a military life and teen suicide prevention expert. Co-founder of DASIUM, Judy’s books Right Side Up  and Warning Signs: Is Your Teen at Riskare go to resources for families and her websites are filled with tips, inspiration and resources for those looking for direction. Connect with Judy at

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