Claire Hailwood records her own childhood battles with her mum and how this informs her parenting
I’m the eldest child and as such had to forge pathways for my siblings who followed. When I first asked about getting my ears pierced I was told the age I’d need to wait until was 18.
I negotiated relatively hard and got the limit down to 13 (my youngest sister had hers done at nine but I’m not bitter….)
When I was 14 I went and got my ears pierced two more times without permission and attempted to hide it from my parents. What the point is of pierced ears always hidden from sight I’m not sure…
I did the same with my belly button when I was 19 - I was an adult living away from home but didn’t tell my parents. In an awkward Christmas moment they only found out when I opened a new belly ring gift from one of my siblings (the same one who’d had her ears pierced four years earlier than mine, again, I’m not bitter…!)
When I got a tattoo at 33 my mum just rolled her eyes and said nothing.
Getting a second and third piercing was as much about wanting to assert my own identity and explore being rebellious (in a relatively safe way!) as much as because I loved piercings. The feeling of it not being allowed made it more alluring to me.
So as soon as my kids wanted their ears pierced (for longer than just a passing fancy) we said yes. I had daughters first so that wasn’t a challenge to me, but when my son wanted an ear pierced I realised I had reservations that were different because of his gender and I had to confront some of my feelings about that. He does have his ear pierced (my poor mum!)
The thing about a pierced ear is that it leaves very little mark if someone decides they don’t like it anymore. Tattoos are much more permanent (and only ‘removable’ at great expense!). We’ve all heard stories of someone who got a tattoo that they thought represented one thing when it fact it means something entirely different, or features a spelling mistake or a poor representation of the character they hoped to immortalise on their body somewhere.
This I think requires some more thought and more supportive conversation as a child in your care wonders about it. Legally you have to be 18 in the UK to have a tattoo so there is at least that boundary that the authorities have put in place that might buy a little more time while you and your child journey this together.
So, although I’ve confessed that I have had both piercings and a tattoo, are they OK?
There are those who reference the verses in Leviticus 19 that appears to say that we should not have any tattoos marked on our bodies. For some this verse is open to interpretation as it is old covenant and connected to pagan practices which God’s people were to shun, and some point to Revelation 19 which appears to suggest that Jesus has a tattoo on his thigh (in some translations). We have to factor in the symbolism of the book of Revelation as we interpret. So in some circles any kind of tattoo can be a contentious issue. Perhaps it is for you, for your family or community?
Things to consider
1. Understand their why
If your child trusts you enough to let you in to their desire for a piercing or future tattoo, then I would be rejoicing that they’re inviting you on a journey with them. It’s a privilege and whatever our own opinions, hold on to that as it’s not something every parent or carer is afforded.
There’s a therapeutic parenting approach known as PACE – the ‘C’ stands for ‘curious’ – an encouragement to us to always be curious, asking questions, wondering ‘why’ with our children and young people. Perhaps being curious about what they might like, why, what any tattoo might represent to them and why that’s important could be an opportunity to draw closer to them?
2. Check your own heart
It’s so easy as a parent and carer to react when we need to respond. We react from our own experience, perspective and beliefs. Often those are good and helpful, but sometimes they’re not! How do you feel about your child having a piercing or tattoo? Those beliefs have been formed by something. There’s nothing like being a parent or carer to force you to examine these!
Whether you’re for or against them, where’s that rooted and does that align with who you are and what you believe today? With who you believe God to be and what He says is important and valuable? If not then there’s an opportunity for us to grow alongside our children.
3. Keep perspective
I don’t think my Mum is keen on my tattoo or my additional piercings when I was a teenager. I’m grateful that in spite of that she had a perspective on it which meant she didn’t mention it every time she saw it and she was very gracious with me even in my rebellion.
As we journey with our young people, whatever their choices and opinions and however that relates to us, let’s make sure we keep an eternal perspective on it. Let’s keep praying for our young people as they explore expressing their character and personality, continuing to thank God for the privilege it is to walk alongside them, and keep praying for wisdom.