Daughter Wants a Tattoo – Dad says “No Way!”

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Dear AskDesCamp:

My husband and I read your blog every day and howl at the various hilarious problems people get into.  As much as we love reading it I don’t think we ever thought we’d be writing to you but here we are.  We’ve agreed to take your advice, or at least consider it strongly.

Our only child Kate is entering her junior year of college in September.  She is doing very well and averaging a 3.8 while carrying more than a full course load, because she wants to graduate early.  Her dad and I invested over the years and her college fund is healthy and should last until she graduates.  We control the money.

Last week over dinner Kate casually mentioned that she was going to get a tattoo on her wrist in memory of her best friend who died last year in a car wreck.  Both her father and I think this is a terrible idea, but her dad has told her he would stop funding her college education if she gets the tattoo.  Needless to say, things at our house are tense right now.

I think he is over-reacting and don’t believe it’s fair he stops paying for college if she does this.  She is furious and avoiding us both (she works most of the day and has been staying with friends at night).  What is your advice for our family in turmoil?

-Betsy

Dear Betsy:

You and your husband have joined a surging national movement: people who agree to abide by my advice on their family squabbles.  I congratulate you on your wisdom.

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I’m rushing for time today so I will be as succinct as possible, addressing your problem in the AskDesCamp Figure-This-Out-By-Numbers format.

1. I don’t like the implication from what you wrote that your husband maintains sole control over the college fund. Take a look at the documents and make sure you have the same distribution rights that he has.

When we spoke you told me you both contributed to this fund over the years but your husband has always handled the details.  You need to roll up your sleeves and become more actively involved.  He could get hit by the Bus of Death* tomorrow, after all.

2. While I understand your husband’s dismay over his daughter getting a tattoo in a highly visible area, I find his threats to cease her college funding wildly disproportionate to some ink on her wrists.  When your husband finds a fly buzzing around the house, does he go after it with a Tech-9?

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You shared with me he has always been controlling but you have learned how to adapt and so has your daughter.  It sounds like this man has been holding you both hostage for years, which may explain your daughter’s sudden interest in doing something to her body that she knows her father will loathe.

She may be a little late to the game, but most children will rebel at some point, especially those who feel stifled and dominated by their parents.  I believe some family counseling is in order for all of you, because your husband needs to hear from a neutral third party that his domineering ways are detrimental to the family and need to come to an end.

3. Kate will almost certainly obey her father – she is clearly smart and driven so I doubt she will throw a wrench in her college career over a tattoo honoring a dead girl she would probably hate by now anyway.  Women – we’re fickle that way!

What your husband fails to see is Kate can and will get any tattoo she wants wherever she wants it once she has graduated, but he will have done a great deal of damage to the relationship with these threats and may come to find his daughter pulls very far away from him after the financial cord is cut.

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If he maintains this stance, not only will he poison his relationship with his only child, he will also ensure she is inked from head to toe by the time she’s 30.  See last photo at end of blog.  Is this what he wants?

It’s time for a family meeting!  Please follow my instructions to the letter and in the order listed or you will not achieve the results desired.

1. Dad must apologize for threatening to cut her off but should explain his overreaction was based in love for her and wanting her to avoid making a decision she may regret in the future.

2. Open the discussion to address how you and your daughter feel about your husband’s controlling nature.  I have emailed you some names of family counselors in your area so I encourage you to consider having a meeting or two before Kate returns to college.

3. Give the girl some kudos: kids love that!  You and your husband have much to be proud of and this would be a great time to communicate that pride to your daughter.

4. Regarding the tattoo: you both should give your opinion on why you think she may regret this decision in the future and encourage her to table this idea for a year.  I’d express sympathy for the loss of her friend but remind her that sometimes we make permanent bad decisions (suicide or marrying the best lay you ever had) based on temporary feelings.

Gotta run.  Let me know what happens!

-Robin

*If you don’t know what the Bus of Death is, you aren’t a faithful reader.  Here, I’ll help you but you’ll have to read to the end to get the informational nugget: This post described the Bus of Death

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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Swifty

    Long term, what’s her plan; to tattoo an obituary for every friend and family member who dies in her lifetime? IMHO, tattoo people aren’t long term thinkers or they wouldn’t be jumping on the current fad of body graffiti.

    1. CL

      I wouldn’t lump all people with tattoos into the same category- I have 2 that I’ve had for 20 yrs and I don’t regret them at all. I also don’t think it’s unreasonabke for this girl to want to get one in rememberance of her friend- I only hope she decides to get it somewhere on her body that she can cover it up for a job interview, or hide it from Dad until she’s out of college.

      1. askdescamp

        Hey, CL, I did not mean to give the impression that getting a tattoo would be a regretful decision, just that it someday could be and therefore it’s good to think on it for a while at such a young age. I have nothing against tattoos and have often considering getting one myself, but I just can’t decide what it would be. Perhaps the words “fickle and indecisive?”

        1. CL

          My reply was directed towards Swifty’s comment, not your blog post as a whole, dear. 😉

  2. John Meaney

    The real mistake Dad made was to unilaterally issue his decree at that moment. The right thing to do would have been to say something like, “Your Mother and I will discuss this and let you know what we think later.” I believe that any child living under her parents’ roof and / or enjoying the financial benefits from same should be bound by her parents’ rules until emancipated. Those rules ought to be created mutually by the parents.

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