“That’s not very nice,” said the doctor, pointing to my four-year-old daughter’s arm. “Who will have to clean that up?”
Upon my girl’s arm were tiny, intersecting pen-inked grids, which she called “cages.” She’d drawn several across the belly of her brother, too.
Cages? I’d thought earlier, upon hearing her explanation. Cool.
Because come ON.
I’m a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) who can only write anything at all because my kids usually attend part-time preschool. When they’re home all the time, like today, I spend most of my time failing at basic object management.
Because, though you wouldn’t know it, I genuinely want everything our apartment not to be broken, sticky, and strewn across the floor. Whereas my kids take great creative pride in mayhem-making.
I genuinely and unironically praised her for keeping all of the pen marks on her and her brother’s skin this time.
A few arm doodles? Frankly, I don’t have time for that.
Ok, I’ll admit. There have been times when I’ve reflexively protested DIY kiddie body art. But when they ask that most essential question, Why not?, I just can’t come up with a single thing.
Neither watercolors nor acrylic paints nor pen ink are significantly toxic (at least not when applied topically).
They aren’t branding themselves with swastikas or similar vulgarities.
They are being creative, destroying nothing, and having fun.
The only plausible objection I can come up with is that other parents might judge me. (UNavoidable.) And I get that it’s no fun as a parent to forbid your kid something only for them to see other kids getting away with that thing.
But again, why not? It harms nothing save a few aesthetic sensibilities. And even Joan Rivers knew that one can’t literally police fashion.
Finally, considering the adult equivalent, I’d like my kids to know, from a very young age, that appearances are no reason to judge a person. That the man or woman walking down the street with tattoo sleeves may be just as responsible and compassionate a human as the one in a suit and tie or designer heels. Perhaps even more so.
So, I’m sorry, my daughter, that I didn’t stand up for your beautiful “arm cages” at the doctor’s today. I was caught off guard because I was worried about your health and cowed by the effects of medical authority.
I hope I made up for it later when the shopkeep commented on your arm, and I responded in utter deadpan: “She’s practicing for a future career as a tattoo artist.”
Because you don’t know what that means, and that may not your goal. But if it is, more power to you, kid. As long as you give it your all and — above all — endeavor to be a responsible and compassionate human, I will be proud of you.