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Real Talk: 10-Year-Olds Don't Need Tattoos

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10 Year Old Boy Tattoo
My general rule about parenting: Your kid, you do what you feel is best, as long as there’s no abuse or neglect. But then I got wind of a news story about a Georgia mom who was arrested after she allowed her 10-year-old son to get a tattoo.

I’m sorry, what?

The mom, Chuntera Napier, said she just couldn’t tell her son “no” when he asked to get a tattoo honoring his brother, Malik, who was hit and killed by a car two years ago. So she took him to the shop, gave her consent, and now her little boy Gaquan sports on his barely-there bicep a tat of his brother’s name and basketball jersey number.

“My son came to me and said, ‘Mom, I want to get a tattoo with Malik on it, rest in peace,” Napier, who also has memorial tattoos of her deceased son, told ABC News’ Atlanta affiliate WSBTV. “What do I say to a child who wants to remember his brother?”

Uh... how about “Wait till you’re 18”? 

Look -- without question, the child’s desire is a noble one. As his mother pointed out in the interview, “It’s not like he was asking for SpongeBob.” I also can imagine that part of the mother’s (very bad) decision stems from mourning her deceased son. Further, Gaquan isn’t likely to grow up and regret memorializing his deceased brother forever-ever in permanent ink.

But wouldn’t it be more appropriate for a 10-year-old -- so young that in a widely circulated photo he wears a Muppets T-shirt -- to honor his loss with something like a locket or a chain? How about painting a mural in his bedroom, or creating a Facebook page in memoriam?

Obviously, Gaquan’s mom didn’t see it that way. And after someone at his elementary school spotted his tattoo and reported it to authorities, Napier was arrested on charges of misdemeanor cruelty and being party to a crime. (A 2010 Georgia law prohibits the tattooing of children.) 

Napier says she was unaware of the law and is in disbelief that her consent wasn’t enough to let her son legally get tattooed.

Of course, ignorance of the law isn’t an out, and thinking that’s it’s okay to allow a 10-year-old to get a tattoo for any reason is ratchet parenting at its prime. But I’m confused as to what was supposed to be accomplished by arresting this mom. (For anyone wondering why the tattoo artist hasn’t been arrested, Napier has refused to name him.) What Mama Napier needs isn’t a record -- it’s grief counseling and a parenting class, one that teaches her even as she and her family continue to heal from a loss, she is a mother, not her son’s best friend. Saying “no” is exactly what she’s supposed to do. It’s not only her right, it’s her job.

Do you think the mother was wrong to allow her 10-year-old son to get a tattoo?

Demetria L. Lucas is the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter @abelleinbk
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