My daughter and I got matching mother daughter tattoos a few months after her 18th birthday. I gladly paid for them. She’d been talking about getting a tattoo when she was old enough for years. I didn’t have any tattoos but was open to it if I had a meaningful idea. Then suddenly, it just felt right.
We got the tattoos on the first anniversary of my daughter’s nearly successful suicide attempt.
My therapist recommended we do something special to create a positive memory to replace the horror of the original day. An arrow tattoo was the clear vision for both my daughter and I instantly. Arrows represent strength, bravery, and moving forward. The prior year was challenging, but filled with the rewards that come from doing the hard work of healing. We both felt an arrow was perfect and decided to get it above our right ankles because feet are what physically move you forward.
People have questioned the decision to get a tattoo with my teenager. Here are some of the things I’ve been asked.
Aren’t you too old for a tattoo? It was my first tattoo at 41. No, that’s not too old. I don’t believe in “too old.” Wear what you want. Listen to what you want. Hit the clubs at 1 am or try surfing for the first time if you want. Throw “too old” out the window.
Isn’t she too young? She was 18, so she didn’t need my permission. The age restrictions on tattoos vary by state, but I would have signed a permission slip for her to get it prior to 18 in this situation. I would have also signed if she had another tattoo in mind I knew was meaningful to her and wasn’t just a passing whim. Because it’s her body, not mine.
Is it safe? Tattoos are open wounds injected with ink, so of course, there are always some risks. I asked around for recommendations, visited shops in person and spoke to multiple tattoo artists. We were given clear instructions for after-care. If you put in a bit of research, the chance of any issues is very low.
What about jobs? According to the FDA, 3 out of 10 people have tattoos. That’s 29%. I’m guessing that number is higher if you only count adults and not “people” in general. Tattoos don’t have the same stigma as even a couple of generations ago. They are mainstream and chances are many of your coworkers – and even your boss – have at least one tattoo.
What message are you sending your child? My daughter got the message that I see her and value her experiences. She had a life-changing event and wanted to document it in a creative and permanent way. Instead of judging her, I did it with her. I showed her that I respect her decisions about what happens to her body and celebrate her journey.
My girl is off at college now, in another state. A quick glance at our ankles reminds us of our bond and what we made it through together. Getting matching tattoos was a healing experience and a beautiful memory for both of us. And we’ve both gone on to get more ink beyond our matching mother daughter tattoos!