Help! My son got a facial tattoo!

An Unanswered Letter to Advice Columnist Sandra Maldonado of Scarsdale Parent Quarterly

RE: Help! My son got a facial tattoo!

Dear Sandra,

My son Travis graduated high school last year, and we had high hopes for him. But so far, as a young man, despite the best efforts of my wife Peggy and me, Travis has been adrift. He didn’t go to college, even though he finished in the top 20 of his class and was accepted to several good schools. We spent thousands on tutors. Every job he’s had, mostly in the food service industry, lasts about two weeks. He’s in a band called Warwolf. We encouraged his music and creative outlets, but honestly the songs are punk-pop drivel. How can the lives of a bunch of teenagers, afforded nearly every privilege and opportunity, be so sad?

Then there was Sanja. She sports many piercings and tattoos. She even had two diamond studs on her lower back. Why? I don’t know. Sanja got Travis into tattoos. It started with a sleeve tattoo going up and down Travis’ left arm based on a design of geometric shapes that Sanja, an ‘artist,’ created. I created that arm, dang it! Peggy and I weren’t happy, but we decided like always that Travis should do what he wanted to do. I think we read the wrong parenting advice books when raising him. I recall one entitled: Your child is super, special, fantastic and don’t let them forget it, or something like that. Maybe we should have disciplined him more? Maybe we should have instilled a stronger work ethic, instead of always cleaning up after him. Maybe we should have told him that when he gets older, he’ll need to get a job.

At least the sleeve tattoo could be covered up by a long sleeve shirt. But his tattoos continued. Whatever little money he made, plus the allowance we gave him, went to more tattoos. He was a walking scab for several months. Every week a new tattoo appeared. Peggy almost fainted when the blood dripping fang marks appeared on his neck.

It was Sanja’s influence. Sanja told Peggy that she loved the way Travis was really out there, exposing his true self to the world. How original? Wasn’t that what Warwolf was for? It was sexy, Sanja said. Sexy! I’m not exactly a prude. I grew up in the 80’s and had my fair share of wild times, like trying a doobie in the Miami Vice days, but I got myself together and grew up when I had to, which was when Peggy told me she was pregnant. But I don’t know if Travis ever can.

For whatever reason – it was young love after all – Sanja dumped Travis. He was in quite a stew. And what did he do? Move on, think about his goals, his aspirations in life, his future, get a new girl? No, he got a facial tattoo!

It’s an anchor, over an inch big, located just below his left eye. It’s so distracting, you can’t escape it. I asked him what it meant. He said he didn’t know he just didn’t want to be cliché. Like having an anchor on your forearm was cliché, so somehow this broke all boundaries of art. This is my radical son. We offered to pay for laser removal. Travis said no. I told him he’d basically locked himself out of ever entering and becoming normal part of society. He’s only 19 for chrissakes! Youth do stupid things all the time, I know, but this facial tattoo is ludicrous. Really that’s how one has to be out there, separate from the crowd these days? I’m at a loss. Peggy’s at a loss. I can’t even imagine how his grandparents will react at Thanksgiving: “What do you mean it won’t come off? It’s permanent? Pass the mashed potatoes, please!”

It’s not our fault or is it? We thought we were good parents. OK, we coddled him, gave him everything he wanted, and supported him with whatever he desired to do: soccer, karate, tennis, piano, summer camp, video games, fencing, biking, guitar. Guitar stuck, but nothing else did. He dropped most interests within days of us buying the gear. Surely he never did anything that was permanent before, why all those silly tattoos? We looked the other way when we found booze in his room at 15 and weed at 16. It was a phase Peggy said, and he was doing well at school. We’d done it all too. But c’mon a facial tattoo? We don’t know what to say or do. Our precious boy’s face has a darned anchor on it. We somehow failed as parents and that freaking tattoo reminds me every time I see Travis. It’s so off-putting. But what can we do? I can’t imagine what he’ll do the next time he wants attention.

Peggy and I decided to keep encouraging laser removal, and set up a savings account for Travis, solely for that purpose – the if you change your mind fund. God I hope he does. Peggy’s even trying to stay positive about it somehow, and has been looking online for Tattoo Artist Schools, but apparently they don’t exist. Travis said he is a canvas not a painter. Past payments to art instructors verify that. In our living room we still have a framed painting of Travis’ of what was supposed to be a donkey from the 8th grade. I think it looks like an elephant. So I am asking you, Sandra, what are we to do about the facial tattoo?


Rod Childress, Esq.


Please note: Sandra does not consider queries for children above the age of 18.

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