Hello Rene,

My older sister, Ashley, has always wanted to get a tattoo. Anytime, we see someone with one in the streets or on television she says that it’s “cool.”

Once Ashley said it in front of my mom, who quickly told her that it’s wasn’t a good idea and she wouldn’t allow her to get one. My sister was 15 at the time. Ashley just turned 16 and celebrated with a big party. At the end of the party she pulled me in our bedroom to show me the gift she got for herself. It was a small butterfly tattoo on her shoulder! I thought it was beautiful, but know my parents are going to flip when they find out.

My sister is soooo excited about her new tattoo and says that once my parents see it, they’ll like it too. I don’t think that’s true.

Rene, should I tell my parents about Ashley’s tattoo or let them find out on their own?

I’m 14

Nicky, Idaho

Hi Nicky:

Ohboyohboyohboybhboyohboyohboyohboyohboy………. I’m going to try to calm down enough to write a coherent response but Ashley is in for a rude awakening if she truly believes her folks are gonna “love” the tattoo. Ashley’s got two issues here, one a legal one, the other with mom and dad.

LEGAL: First of all I’m not even sure how Ashley got the tattoo, in most states you need to be 18 years or older. But even if Ashley dressed up for her visit to the tattoo parlor in mom jeans and a cardigan, I would think it a stretch that whoever inked her didn’t at least have an idea that she may have been underage.  But ultimately that’s an issue your folks will take up with them, though I’m not sure what recourse they’ll have, if any.

MOM AND DAD: I need to commend you because even though you are the younger sister, you seem to have a better grasp of this situation than Ashley. Your parents are going to be so TERRIBLY disappointed and it’s not about the fact that she got a tattoo. It’s that she specifically went against their wishes. Now, if she had asked, the answer would have been no and that’s precisely why she kept her mouth shut. See here’s the thing; we as parents are charged with helping you get successfully to adulthood. Teens are really still developing cognitively; in other words, you are just beginning to understand things like morality and other abstract issues. I know those are big words and concepts so let me put it this way. When you’re 16 you think everything is urgent, desperate and you may not have a real understanding about the future, even though you say you do. That’s why you have parents, to help guide and teach you. It would not have killed Ashley to think about this tattoo thing for a few years, do more research and then make the decision when she was 18. Too late; it’s there now.

WHAT DO YOU DO NOW: This is tricky. On the one hand I would counsel you to stay out of it and to let Ashley tell mom and dad. But, being a mother, I know my first response would be to the other sibling, “You knew and didn’t tell me?” So maybe split the difference. How about you tell mom or dad that there’s something they need to talk to Ashley about and leave it at that. Or you could confide in your folks and make them promise they won’t tell big sister you told them. Ultimately they’re going to see it, unless she plans on wearing a flannel, long sleeve bathing suit  in the summer. If you tell them about it, they can keep an eye out for it and bring it up when they see it.

Nicky, I’m really impressed by you, as you seem wise beyond your years. That’s why I feel pretty comfortable in leaving you with this admonishment. DON’T DO ANYTHING THIS STUPID! I know as teens you may think your parents are unhip or uncool and have no idea what kids nowadays go through. The music, clothes and hair may have changed but the issues still remain. We know because we’ve been there.

Good luck Nicky and thanks for writing.

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