Wild Things - quite contrary, see how your children grow...
Ok, don't freak out by the picture. I'm not suggesting for one minute that you get your babies tattooed and don't worry Phoenix doesn't have, 'I love my mum' emblazoned across his chest. I'm merely drawing your attention to the fact that, some day your perfect, pure, little darling will turn 18 years old and then, if they so wish, they will be able to graffiti all over their perfect skin or pierce wherever they so desire or brand themselves or do whatever they please to their bodies. Bodies that you helped create, carry and nurture and there will be absolutely nothing you can do about it. They don't belong to us, they belong to themselves. So, how will you react when they take over their own lives? Is a tattoo the worst thing they can do? Is it the biggest regret they'll ever have? By some parents reactions you'd think it was.... But I really don't think it is. I think we can save them from much bigger, more life changing regrets and here's why....
I thought I'd done pretty well waiting until the ripe old age of 31 to get a tattoo and that my parents would be mindful of me being such a good girl. Not so though, my dad freaked out so much, he didn't talk to me for a few days afterwards. Now, granted it's rather big and all over my back, but I waited until I'd found exactly the right tattooist, a brilliant artist in fact, called Rob Sutherland at Living Image Tattoo in Greenwich. I also made sure I had exactly the right picture to suit my now, supposedly fully developed personality and I didn't go completely mad, I only have 2 tattoos and that's probably me done, although as they say, maybe just one more ;)
My dad still to this day doesn't know about the second one on my thigh. I can't face his reaction again, even though I'm now 42.
So why do we go mental when our 'grown up kids' get a tattoo or any other modifications? Well now I'm finally a mum myself, I can see why my dad would feel gutted. I'll always be his baby girl, that little baby who came home from the hospital. A blank canvas. A new day, not yet tainted by life, with everything to hope for. A baby somehow feels like a chance for us to start again. A fresh life for us to watch unfurling and hopefully they won't make any mistakes. They will play the game better than we did and get to a higher level.
I suppose a tattoo is a very obvious 'mark' on your life. A stain we can see on our babies, whether they be 18 or 42, it's a very obvious sign that they are no longer ours . They no longer represent that fresh start that they once promised us. The thing is, they didn't promise us anything at all. We promised them a life that's full and the chance to really live it and that means making mistakes and having regrets. That's the best way to truly live isn't it?
When young people get a tattoo you always hear older people telling them they'll regret it later in life. There's even been a whole TV series dedicated to tattoos and people regretting having them done and it got me thinking... Society is very quick to tell young people they will regret getting a tattoo or a piercing or shaving their hair off - but I think there are bigger regrets we should be warning our children about.
My biggest regret is definitely not having tattoos and it never will be. My biggest regret and the only one I'll be warning Phoenix against, is not loving myself enough. Not respecting this wonderful vessel that carries my life force. My body that can do so much, my face that represents uniquely who I am, so others can recognise me. Not protecting my soul from bullies and vampires. I hope he is his own idol and only wants to be himself.
In this day and age of social media, young people are made to feel even more inferior than we once were. If we only teach our children to - Love Themselves. Laugh Often and Live Their Precious Lives embracing every moment - and that they can be anything they want to be, then we will have given them more than money could ever buy.
I spent from age 12, hating my body. I hated it so much that I caused myself to have bulimia and body dismorphia for 11 years. In fact I still have dismorphia. I now look back at pictures of my 12 year old self and think, wow I was actually beautiful (although maybe a bit too 80's in my fashion sense) with a fabulous figure - and yet I tortured and starved myself. When I should have been relishing every happy moment of my childhood, I was Instead just worried about how I looked.
I spent my twenties hating myself so much I didn't get jobs I should have easily got because I didn't feel good enough or pretty enough or thin enough. I didn't even feel worthy enough to go to the gym or wear nice dresses or make up. I went from one abusive relationship to another. Letting other people tell me how to live my life, letting other people take over my life. Not acknowledging that I was actually clever and talented, that I had achieved more than most had at my age and I could in fact make good decisions. Instead I allowed other people to tell me what to do, allowed them to make me feel inferior just because they were older. Always feeling I was on the outside of life, looking in. I look at pictures of me now in my twenties and I was good enough. There was a magic in there, as there is in everyone. I just had to like myself enough. More than any tattoo, I regret all those moments in my twenties that I didn't feel good enough to live my own life.
I spent my thirties allowing myself to be bullied by people. Being told I was too thin, feeling like I had to prove myself to women who were larger than me or not as girlie as me. Prove to them that just because I was thin, it didn't mean I was a bitch and just because I was girlie and small, it didn't mean I wasn't intelligent and that I still deserved a voice. On one of the shows I filmed in my thirties, my notes back from the producers after the first block of filming were that I looked, "Old and ugly and that my hair was too long". I regret that I believed them. I regret that I cried instead of telling them that the show was actually for children and that I doubted very much children would care how old or ugly I might have looked and if it really bothered them they should find someone else to bully. Instead I spent the whole of my thirties feeling like I looked old, when in fact I was often asked for I.D! What a waste, so much more destructive than any tattoo. I will never get that youth or time back - I allowed the bullies to steal it.
So now in my forties, I'm trying hard to like who I am and I think I'm starting to. I know I'm worthy of a magical life. Becoming a mum has really helped that. I have to lead by example. I have to be all I can be for Phoenix. I will encourage my baby boy to make mistakes and to not worry about regrets. Most of all, I will instil in him to love and respect himself. I hope I can teach him that he is more than enough. That he is, as worthy as the rest of the world. I hope I can teach him to stand up to the bullies and that if any one tells him he's not good enough, whether they be a teacher, a boss or me it's because they don't think they are good enough and that he should not listen to them. I hope I can show him that life is precious and must be lived and loved. That in the end all that matters is love and the people you love. I will tell him that a tattoo is for life, so he should probably think hard about it, but I will also tell him that more importantly he is also for life and so he should love every inch of himself (tattooed or not) every minute he is on this beautiful planet. I'll tell him to not allow anything negative to steal his time or happiness here on Earth. To be at peace with who he is in every moment - and therefore whatever life throws at him, he will always be happy.
"Show me you can risk being completely at peace, truly okay with the way things are right now in this moment" - Oriah Mountain Dreamer