I was one of those weird kids growing up: nose always in a book, bored by sports, happy to go to school. This was a bit strange because my father had been a broken-nosed lineman on the varsity high school football team, was always playing hooky to go fishing, and once he graduated, went off to a succession of manly muscular jobs, working on the railroad, as a lumberjack, and eventually as an auto mechanic. I think he was perpetually baffled by the bookish nerd he’d fathered, but then, he had six kids and everyone of us ended up different, independent, and stubborn in our own ways. And that was just fine, that’s what good parenting is about — supporting your kids just enough that they can be free to be themselves. My parents did a good job.
When I had kids of my own, I also discovered how hard that is. Children can be wilful little beasts, but they are also desperate for approval. It would have been so easy to raise a family of neurotic, unhappy, but miserably obedient dependents, if only I’d been willing to impose my views on theirs, and withheld love to get my way. As it is, though, I’ve ended up with three kids who’ve each gone off in their own weird direction — sometimes leaving me baffled — but I trust them to know their own minds and be willing to struggle a bit to figure out what works for them, not necessarily what works for me.
So it was with a special revulsion that I read this story of oblivious parents giving their kids home tattoos. They were branding them with their religious identity, inking crosses into their skins, which explains a lot, since smug Christians tend to be completely blind to the freakishness of their obsession, but it wouldn’t make any difference if they’d been atheists punching scarlet “A”s into their childrens’ shoulders — it’s child abuse. It completely misses the point of parenting, which is not the same as indoctrination, and confuses guidance and education with ownership. Here’s what the mother said about it:
“I’m their mother,” Patty Jo Marsh said late Saturday. “Shouldn’t I be able to decide if they get one?”
Children are your responsibility, not your personal sheet of blank paper. They aren’t there for you to scribble on, crumple up, and throw away if you don’t like them. Isn’t it weird how the religious wackjobs can howl about how a fetus is a human being that must be granted the privilege of existence, but once it pops out, it reverts to being a possession, a thing that mommy and daddy can do with as they please?
Jeez, next thing you know they’ll be demanding the right to chop off the ends of the boys’ penises. Or to take a chunk of broken glass to the girls’ clitorises.
Nah, nobody would be that crazy.