I remember when I was little I really wanted to get my ears pierced. I begged and begged but my parents made me wait until I was 12. Prior to that time period, (the 70's, yes I am that old!) The hippie's and flower children were really the first generation to pierce their ears. I still remember when my dad took me out for my special day and of course I chose little gold stars for my very first pair of earrings. Now, this generation of new mothers doesn't even wait for their kids to ask for earrings, they take them to get their ears pierced as infants or toddlers. I however didn't, I waited until my girls started asking to have their ears pierced, and then I made them wait until I thought they were old enough and able to take care of them themselves. They got them pierced for their 9th Birthday. And it was a special day for them.
Now fast forward a few decades. It used to be that the only people who had tattoos were sailors or bikers. But, now I'm sure we all know people who have them. Like piercing your ears, it has now become a big part of our culture. We were youth pastors when the youth culture really started to embrace tattoos. And I thought to myself it would be so cute to get a little star on my ankle. That was over 15 years ago. And I have talked about it off and on all this time. So, this year for Mothers day my kids decided that's what they wanted to get me. And If you will notice the picture on the top of this blog, you can see it. Kyle told me when I get old and have Alzheimer's I'll just have to look at my ankle to remember my name! So, if you didn't know anyone with a tattoo before, you do now. ; ) I think, at least for Kyle (who is the ring leader) it was important to do this for me this year because he is turning 18 and has always wanted a tattoo of his own. And I think he thought, "If mom has one, she won't say no to me getting one." Though I could always pull the "Do as I say, not as I do" thing.
He has known for years he's wanted a tattoo and exactly what he wanted and where. And in Arizona you can get a tattoo if you are 18. (You can be 16 with parental consent.) But before he could get one we made him think long and hard about it and had long talks of, "are you sure you want to do this?, and that you want this on your body for the rest of your life?" We also made sure he knew some employers wouldn't like it, or might make him cover it up, etc. He was fine with that. So, for his 18th Birthday we let him get a tattoo. He got written in Hebrew the word for Lord, or Yahweh on his forearm. You also can not give blood for a year after you get a tattoo, so he donated blood before he got his tattoo.
I also set down a rule that he can not get another one until he is at least 21. Because that first tattoo is such a big decision of weather or not to put something permanently on your body. And you pick something that really means something to you. But, then too many times I've seen people after they get that first one, they like it so much, and see how easy it was, so they go crazy and start getting a bunch of other ones, and in a couple of years they realize they didn't really mean anything to them. And they regret getting them. It also helped that we saw Danny Bonaduce (child star from the partridge family) on the Dr. Phil show and he said that he has seven women's names tattooed on his body, and he couldn't even remember who three or four of them even were, whoops! Thanks for the lesson Danny! "Come on get Happy!"
I do not think that teenagers wanting tattoos is necessarily a sign of rebellion, no more than me wanting my ears pierced was. Some of my friends had them, and some didn't, My mom didn't. But I wanted mine done because I liked it, and I wanted to wear pretty earrings. I am 43 now, and to this day, I still wear earrings every single day! And in the same way, tattoos are just a part of our culture now. I've even read of the parents of new born identical twins tattooing a dot or something on one of their babies feet or backside in fear of getting them mixed up. I guess then you'd just have to remember which one you tattooed and which one you didn't!