Hey, it’s been a while since we took a peek in the mailbag around here . . . let’s see what we’ve got.

QUESTION

Hi Kendra,

Thank you for all that you do. I enjoy reading your blog. The articles are thoughtfully written and also very helpful.

If you are able, I would love your insight on another matter: tattoos and piercings. Our oldest is 20 and recently got a tattoo. Initially I was hurt that he didn’t share until afterward, but was happy to learn he did research what the Church taught. He understood that getting a tattoo is not a moral issue, but what you get as the tattoo is a moral issue.

He is our oldest and we had never really discussed our rules around getting a tattoo. He has two younger sisters (16 and 14) and realize we may need to talk about this. The 16 year old talks about getting one someday. While I have many family members and friends with tattoos, personally, I do not like them and feel like it is clouding my judgement going forward. I would rather they wait until they get their first job outside of college. They would be older and outside of the college/campus atmosphere and having to think about this permanent decision within in a professional atmosphere. Some say I would only be inviting rebellious behavior as they can do it on their own at 18.

As a Catholic mom whose insight I respect, I would love your take on the issue.

In Christ,
Jennifer

ANSWER

Dear Jennifer,

Thanks for your kind words. I appreciate your support! My oldest son is almost nineteen, and doesn’t have any tattoos or piercings (of which I am aware). But I don’t feel like I have the secret to getting kids to not get them. I do, however, have some personal insight into what might tempt an otherwise very loving and relatively well-adjusted teenager from a supportive home to flout her parents’ reasonable rules against getting tattoos.

Yes, this is a challenging issue for parents. I feel like it’s a particularly challenging for me because I was that rebellious kid. I had (have) SUPER loving and supportive parents who were REALLY against tattoos and piercings. I remember my dad basically telling me in high school that if I got a tattoo he would withdraw his financial support from me completely.

And so, in my slightly warped teenage brain, I think I saw it as the ultimate test. Would he still love me if I did the ONE thing he said not to do? So I got a tattoo in high school, and kept it hidden (because it turns out I was a pretty cowardly rebel) and I got two more and some piercings in college. And they were dumb and it was dumb and finally one Christmas break my mom saw one of them and it was a whole to do around the Christmas tree, but . . . it turned out that they DID still love and support me. So, in that way I won. But also I really regretted them pretty quickly, and went through the very painful precess of having them removed, so overall my parents won. 😆​

Anyway, coming from that perspective, now as a parent, I have tried to frame tattoos as something one should be smart about, not as a moral issue or a line in the sand. I’ve shared with my kids that I had them, that it was about me trying to be a rebel, that mine were dumb, and that there’s a terrible burning smell when you get them removed. Since kids always want to be cooler than their parents, I assume kids of parents with tattoos probably want them less.​

I agree with your son’s assessment of the morality of tattoos. I think they can be cool, and Catholic, and a tool for evangelization. I think that the New Covenant means that as Christians we are not prohibited from having tattoos. I love that there is a 700 year old tattoo shop in Jerusalem that caters specifically to Christian pilgrims. But I think, as it seems you do, that it’s a big decision that should be undertaken only by persons with fully-formed brains. Which is, apparently about 25. (But I got married at 24, so . . . )

Overall, it’s probably not something you have much control over. You can advise, but I wouldn’t draw a line in the sand. And I’m sure you, like my parents, will love your kids anyway, even if they get tattoos. And maybe, like my parents, you’ll help them pay to get them removed if they change their minds.

God Bless,

Kendra

P.S. My mom and dad are still amazingly supportive. Case in point: The husband and I were away for a couple days this week and my parents came up to watch the kids, and this is what that looked like yesterday.

P.S.S. Speaking of dads . . . (I’m all about that segue), The newest limited-edition wooden set in the shop is here! These engraved wooden coasters feature Catholic beer quotes and quotes from St. Augustine, a patron saint of beer. They are generously sized to fit under a beer stein, and come with a holder. Maybe you know a dad who might enjoy these for Father’s Day? They’ll ship out to anywhere in the world the week of June 6. 🍻 Swipe through to see more photos. Get the details and order here. We are making 100 sets, and only 40 are left!

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