For several months my 15-year-old daughter has begged me to order her a tattoo gun. You can imagine my apprehension at granting such a request. I think back to the time she painted her friends face with nail polish, dyed the cat with grape Kool -Aid; and only a few years ago (when she was a more mature twelve), I was vacuuming when what on our carpet should I see – a little purple smiley face looking up at me. I recall the baby dolls marred by Sharpies. I think of how much damage could be done with a tattoo-gun- wielding 15-year-old so obviously set on leaving her mark on the world.
So far I’ve answered her requests with the typical parental non-answer: “Hmmmm, we’ll see.” Parents often do this so as not to be seen as a cruel dream crusher as well as to avoid the incessant nagging that is sure to follow a firm and decisive “No”.
Those of us who are a little more crafty can lead our kids into making the decision we want while allowing them to believe they’ve made the correct decision on their own. So, I try to reason her out of the idea, “Are you really sure you want to spend all your money on that? That’s a lot of money for something you might not get to use. Who do you think would actually let you practice on them?” (“Yeah right”, I’m thinking in the back of my mind. I know full well what a great idea it would sound like to a bunch of 15- year old girls fueled by the normal sleep over menu of colas and Twinkies to have their boyfriend’s initials tattooed across their foreheads. But never mind that.)
‘It comes with fake skin” she informs me.
“Oh”, well, that’s interesting. And also just a little gruesome.
I’ve always encouraged my kids to have hobbies and interests. How will they find that ONE THING which will awaken their soul, inspire their desire or ignite the flame of innovation if they are never encouraged to try new things? I believe people can achieve great things when they’re encouraged to follow their passion. And passion generally starts with a little flicker of interest.
Many life coaches tell us in order to realize our true calling in life, we should think back to what we enjoyed most as a kid. If we tap into those pleasurable memories, we will discover where our talents lie and therefore, discover our calling in life.
For some, those pleasurable memories might include burning ants with a magnifying glass or pulling the wings off butterflies. For those of us who aren’t closet serial killers it’s likely the hobbies and interest we had as a kid were eventually pushed aside to make time for subjects deemed much more useful and relevant to our proper place in society.
I think of my own frustrations as an adult still trying to find my purpose in life. I wanted to be an artist. While I was never discouraged from practicing it as a hobby, I was never encouraged to seriously pursue it as a real career. So, I wondered aimlessly through school and jobs hoping to find inspiration in a more acceptable field of study. I know it’s never too late to pursue our dreams, but doing so would be much easier if we were encouraged to follow our dreams from the very beginning.
What kind of mother would I be if I didn’t encourage my kids to pursue a passion? What if Picasso had been denied a paint brush or Mozart a piano or Tony Hawk a skate board?
Who am I to crush my daughters dreams? This could be her ONE THING. Just like the piano, and the guitar, the video camera and all the other “intrests” that lasted until the ink dried on the check I wrote to pay for lessons and/or required equipment.
So do I encourage her new-found interest? I’m still not convinced it is her passion. More than likely it’s just another passing whim. But so what if it is? Does it matter? It matters more to me she be given the opportunity to try than be denied an opportunity to try at all.
So, the tattoo gun arrived a couple of days ago. More than just a little assembly is required. This is a good thing, as her desire to learn the art of tattoo is apparently second to her lack of interest in the fine art of piecing small mechanical devices together. This little fact has bought me more time to prepare for the phone calls from irate parents challenging my irresponsible decision to arm my daughter with a weapon she so haphazardly used to put her mark on the world.
There may very well be a “Part Two” to this post.