My kids are currently obsessed with tattoos.
Ever since we saw Disney’s Moana with the Chicago Dads a few weeks ago, we’ve been watching the videos from the soundtrack on endless repeat. And, I confess, it’s a fantastic story, characters, and score that probably deserves its own review. But for now, let’s talk ink… and personal choices.
The title character ends up on an epic adventure with the demigod Maui from Polynesian mythology…played amazingly well by The Rock. Anyway, his skin is covered in traditional tattoos that represent the various legends about him. Pulling fire from the underworld, raising islands out of the ocean with his magical fishing hook, harnessing wind, giving humans coconuts. Watch the video.
So we’ve gotten into a few long, kitchen table chats about the history of tattoos, culture, personal choices. It’s been especially interesting because one of their parents has a tattoo and one of us does not. We’ve been over that, yes, they hurt when they’re the permanent ones (not temporary stick-ons) and people choose to sometimes cover their whole bodies with tattoos as art. Or, like me, some people have chosen none. (To be fair, I’ve thought about getting one but can’t seem to find the right symbol for me.) We’ve browsed the internet for tattoos people have of Disney characters, skulls, ancestors, tribal art, and more. Yes, some people get them on their butts. Some of them are meant to be scary, some beautiful, some inappropriate for children–to which my son replied, “I want to see!”
Personal Choices over Play-Doh
Which brings us to this morning. After all this conversation about the deeply personal choices people make over what to do with their bodies, my daughter was quietly playing Play-Doh when she turned to me and said:
“Dad, does everybody like…have to have a baby?”
After gathering myself for one of those unexpected conversations we’re never quite prepared for as parents, I did my best to see the sincerity and innocence in her face as she’s discovering the power of identity, adulthood, freedom. Maybe even taking to heart some of the movie themes in Moana about staying true to yourself.
“No, honey,” I said after a moment of thought, “people usually choose to have kids because they want them. You get to decide that for yourself when you’re a grownup.”
Her reaction was neither positive nor negative. It was Zen and she seemed unmoved-but-thinking. So I continued to explain hoping that more information would help. I said if you want to be a gymnastics coach–her current job goal–you may decide that spending time with your students is the most important thing to you. Having children is a lot of work and they always want to eat and have their parent play Play-Doh with them…a slight jab at her begging me earlier.
well, my brother is going to be in space and I’ll be busy.
She considered it for a minute and it was cool. No followup. No signs of distress. Her response was, “well, my brother is going to be in space and I’ll be busy.” With that unfinished thought, perhaps she’d need to give this some thought in the future.
The Mama was a bit freaked out when I relayed the story to her over lunch. In that few seconds of dialogue influencing your child’s future and life philosophy on complex, mysterious topics like procreation. But I found it to be a sweet father-daughter conversation. It was honest and heartfelt and asked out of genuine concern. She was looking to me for answers. It is times like these that totally validate why I have chosen to be a stay at home parent. Under different circumstances, she’d have gotten a different answer from a different person.
It makes me happy that I’m there to help be the one to prepare her for whatever person she is going to one day become. I hope she realizes that the correct answer to the question is: be whoever you want to be.
(This was originally posted on Kyle’s personal blog.)