The only thing more divisive than tattoos on parents to commemorate the arrival and existence of their children, is probably the State of the Nation 2015. And Eskom (also 2015). Should a grown person spend hours in a dark studio that smells of disinfectant getting their various body parts inked up forever just because a child is born?
“It’s disgusting and ridiculous and totally done by a ‘certain’ kind of person,” says Kelly Rose Bradford. “Anyone who gets one of these tattoos never has a normal child’s name either. It’s always the Jaysens and Angels. It looks atrocious and all done for attention by the parent.”
It’s a harsh view and one that’s shared by plenty of other people.
“I don’t feel the need to ‘commemorate’ my child on my body,” says Heidi Spalding. “They occupy my heart as it is!”
Stacey Vee says: “I have only two things against having your children’s names tattooed on your person. The first is that everyone’s doing it. Years from now, having your kid’s name inked on your arm is going to be the equivalent of those lower back tribal tattoos everyone was getting in the early 2000s. The second is that text makes for terrible tattoos, it doesn’t flow with muscles and often draws the eye along unflattering lines.”
Vee, however, doesn’t totally veto the idea, suggesting that if a parent truly did want a tattoo as a love tribute to their children, then they should get creative. What does their name mean, where were they conceived or born?
It is here that a great tattoo artist becomes an essential part of the process. Sticking a name or a heart on a body part with any old tattoo artist in a shopping mall is not going to necessarily result in something stunning, and it doesn’t take a very long or complicated Google search to unearth some of the more tragic tattoos made by parents who didn’t quite think things through. Or find a tattoo artist with a sterling reputation and the ability to translate an idea into a work of art.
And a tattoo is art.
Sam Puleston put a lot of thought into the creation of her commemorative tattoos and they are absolutely seen as art that will always make her smile. The first tattoo was a charm bracelet on her ankle with each charm representing a symbol for each of her five children.
“All of my symbols have meaning and were not chosen at random,” says Sam. “Reuben is a rainbow, Georgia a giraffe, Noah is a star, Barney is a bear and Sophie is a squirrel. I also have a puzzle piece heart on the back of my right shoulder which is an autism awareness symbol for my son, Noah. The slogan for autism is ‘Until the pieces fit’.”
Artist and blogger Kal Barteski’s tattoo celebrating her children – Pilot, Penn and Poet – is extraordinary in its simplicity. Perhaps made even more so by their names. There is a very good chance that a Tabitha or a Lola would not work quite as well in that script, but that tattoo is one that will always be a thing of beauty.
Dan Short was inspired by the artist Keith Haring and his Jelly Baby images for his tattoo and the final work is both unusual and beautiful. It was also not a spontaneous and rash decision, a lot of care and thought went into the design and the colouring.
“Most people have names, but I wanted something a bit different and more personal to me, so I came up with using colours to represent the letters of their names,” says Dan. “It went Jade Amber Cerise Khaki for Jack, and Jade Orange Sand Eggplant Fuschia for Josef.”
Having a tattoo is a personal decision and can be a lot like Marmite – you either like it or you hate it. And everyone has their own proverbial line in the sand when it comes to what, how and where they put their tattoos. For Sam Puleston and Stacey Vee, symbolism is preferable to the written word. For others, there can be no other choice.
It’s easy to judge, but before you do, consider asking what the story behind the tattoo may be. One mother has had the feet of each child she lost to miscarriage tattooed along the sole of her left foot. Another father who lost his children in a fire had their faces tattooed over his heart. These images carry rich, deep meaning and their significance is extraordinary. A tattoo can be a powerful way of remembering someone and honouring who they are in your life.
Having a child is such a magical thing, it’s easy to see why so many parents go out and get a permanent image to commemorate them forever. Sometimes these are tragic, other times amazing, but in all cases, they should be admired for their boldness and their artistic value.
Disclaimer: The views of columnists published on Parent24 are their own and therefore do not necessarily represent the views of Parent24.
Would you get inked to celebrate parenthood?