Piercings, Tattoos & Bonding with Your Teen

Baker Boy bribed me. He said, “Mom, if you take me to get my tregus  pierced, I’ll pay to have your nosed pierced.” Yup, he did. Yes, he wanted something for himself, a ride to the piercing/tattoo shop and he was willing to pay to make it happen. But, as a mama of 3 teenage boys, I like to think there is an unspoken need in between those lines.  He didn’t ask his dad or his brother (who drives), he asked me.

I know a lot of parents who are against piercings and tattoos. Many of whom I call friend. I have a very good friend who strongly disagrees with my stance on tattoos. She’s okay with them if they are not in the “No Zone”. The No Zone to her, is any place that can be seen wearing a short sleeve shirt and shorts. If there are tattoos under those garments, she doesn’t care how many her children get. I have a friend who will allow her son to get his ears pierced but will not allow him to gauge his ears. And I respect their boundaries. I get it.

Being from a predominately right brained family where life is expressed through the arts, my boundaries are different. I’m raising artists. Baker Boy is an honor roll student at an all arts high school, studying Stage Tech and Design. He’s a good kid with a kind heart. Drama Boy, a theater major in college, worked really hard through high school and went through some rough situations I’m not sure I would’ve survived. We have a good relationship. They talk to me, share stories about their friends, their girlfriends, trust me. I trust them.

I know they are not perfect, neither am I. But, if they invite me into their world, to spend time with them, I’m not quick to turn that down.

I went with Baker Boy to get his tregus pierced. We waited in the packed tattoo parlor for 3 hours. It was $20 Piercing Night. It was a bit of a meat market, moving customers in and out. I did have a few fleeting thoughts about the cleanliness of the equipment, wondering if sterilized products could be maintained under such busy conditions. As a business owner, I even calculated the numbers in my head wondering what $20 Piercing Night could mean for their business. But, while I waited, I was with B-Boy. We looked through tattoo books, talked about school, did a lot of people watching and eaves dropping and then when it was our turn, went into the back room together.

My boy sat down, pointed to the spot he wanted pierced, below his cartilage piercing and above his gauged ear lobe. He took that needle like a man. Then it was my turn. My teenager’s iphone was immediately turned onto video mode to document the moment. The needle went in, then the stud. As my eye watered up (it does naturally as the nerve is hit) my teenager laughed. I could tell he was proud of his mom.

As soon as Drama Boy turned 18, we made an appointment to get his first tattoo. He asked me to take him. I parked our 18 passenger Econoline van on the street and followed him up the stairs to the studio. I had Little Man with me which meant I had to wait in the waiting area with him. But, I had a clear view. I watched the needle paint his skin with the word “Perfect” in white ink.

The T was in black, a bit larger in the shape of a cross. He had earned that badge of honor. He struggled for four years in high school to fit in, to feel like he belonged. As he inched closer to adulthood, he began to feel comfortable in his own skin. Inspired by the Pink song, Perfect, he commemorated his triumph…and he asked me to be there.

What is your stance on teenage piercings and tattoos? I’d love to hear.

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  1. Amy Phillips says:

    As someone who has two piercings (tongue and nose), two more lined up; a tattoo, and two more lined up – I agree totally with your stance. Body modification is fine with me. My only caution is to tell them to be careful how it will look when they get older and perhaps enter a professional environment. Right now, they are too young for either, but my daughter often goes with me when I go to the tattoo parlor and I know it is only age that stops her at the moment.

    • I will say, I drew the line at the septum piercing. He really wants to get it done. And to be honest, I told him I didn’t want to face his grandfather if I let him get it done. I said, “You can face pop on your own at 18 with that one!”

  2. As a momma to a 1 yr old, and a lady with 7 (some very visible) tattoos, I agree with you too..I had my share of fights with my dad after turning 18 and getting inked, mainly because of the bad reputation it has. Luckily I still have a few years before my boy notices my ink, but I’ll go in with an open mind if he ever has the desire to get something done.

  3. You are the coolest mom ever! My parents were OK with my double-pierced ears and cartilage piercing but drew the line after that. I didn’t tell my dad about my naval piercing (he figured it out when I was sunbathing a few years after the fact). I was upfront when I got my first tattoo at age 22 and they were not pleased. My mom has come around and likes the story behind each tattoo but I don’t think she’ll ever understand the appeal of getting it done. Oh well!

    I think it depends on the kid and what they want done. Some teens would not be mature enough to choose a tattoo they’ll want forever but others are. And piercings can generally be taken out with little harm to our bodies, so pierce away! I understand the concern about the future impact on job prospects but overall we’re becoming a more accepting society.

    • Ok, true confession, I do regret one I got on my hip at 18. Because 5 babies later, let’s just say, it’s not at all legible!

  4. I’m not one for body art, but I do respect it…and I LOVE LOVE LOVE that you bonded with your sons through these adventures, rather than condemning them!

  5. I know that bonding moment all too well with my daughter. My husband and I allowed her to get her first tattoo when we was a senior in high school and just a couple months before turning 18. Our daughter was a straight A student with a 4.0 grade average and never drank. When she asked for the tattoo I didn’t want her to get one not because it was a tattoo, I cried when she got her first mole it was something to do with your babies perfect skin. But if this is the worst thing she does in life so be it. I just asked that her tattoo were not on certain parts of her body and she agreed. She is now 23 and has 5 tattoos and still keeps her promise to me on where they are located. This past summer my daughter and I went on a girl’s trip to the midwest for a wedding while there my daughter, sister and I got matching tattoos in honor of being family and being miles apart from each other.

    • Woo who! You go mama! I mom condoned my tattoos when I was younger. But about three years ago, my mom, older and wiser, went and got her first tattoo on her finger, for all to see!! Time has an amazing way to bring perspective.

  6. As liberal as I think I am, I will admitt I do not approve of piercings anywhere but the ears — I think it’s gross for one thing. Also,I don’t think young people should get tattoos. Often they will regret what they did. I think our natural bodies can be decorated with makeup, hair dye, jewelery and clothing that can be changed easily.

  7. I felt myself get emotional at the end of this, as even though my boys are still too young to be interested in these types of things, I know the things that you describe. The intentional time with them, the grace and gratitude in weathering hard times together. It’s so spirit-led, all of this, and unique in every family. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. xo

  8. Huh, you actually got me thinking.

    My parents have been okay with tattoos. Neither of them have any but they have never said a bad thing against them. Piercings on the other hand were different. Only earrings for the girls and nothing for the boys. For the most part even after 18 that is the case but there is more leniency.

    However, I wouldn’t have any problem with my kids having tattoos or piercings. There is still an extent to where I might disagree just because I know the negative impacts they can have. I know that some extents the going back to normal just isn’t going to happen without surgery. However, as long as I know that they know the full extent of the possible problems and they have a mature mindset on the matter, I don’t think I would have a problem with it.

    That being said, I would gladly go with one of my kids, when they are older as they are far to young now, to get a tattoo or piercing.

    • Kristin says:

      I agree and to be honest, I’ve asked my son to not gauge too far that he’d need surgery. He happily agreed. He is mature and so he has thought forward to what it could mean for him in the future. I think we do have to take each kid individually and make those decisions as they come up. They are each unique.

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