I remember telling my Smithville High School colleagues after I’d gotten pregnant with my first child, "If caring for one baby is tougher than teaching 120 students a day, I will eat my hat." Well, my friends, I have metaphorically eaten that hat more times than I can count over the past quarter century. The latest challenge one of my children posed occurred just a few days ago.
My second child, Laura, just started her master’s program in counseling at John Carroll University. She posed a question to me recently that had to do with tattoos. I have never had a tattoo. Moreover, I have never wanted one. I envisioned myself in the nursing home, tattoos swinging in the wind on flesh that had not withstood the test of time. However, she asked me rather bluntly: what if we, in solidarity of our faith, had a small cross or symbol of God inked on our skin? This invitation from her hit me hard. Isn’t this step a physical manifestation of what I’ve been asking of my kids for the past 20-odd years of their lives?
A few days later, I drove up to her new apartment in University Heights. On the way to dinner, we ended up at a tattoo parlor in downtown Cleveland. Then the question presented itself again: are you getting a tattoo to mark our solidarity with Jesus? Wow, talk about being hit between the eyes with my own teachings.
I nodded yes, etched out a scrolled "Jesus" and waited my turn. My daughter chose a small cross, both to be inked on the inside of our wrists, no bigger than an inch or so in width. It didn’t hurt much, and my daughter was inspired by my example. In fact, I don’t think I have ever pleased her more.
As an educator, I always thought my job was to teach. But one of the best things I’ve learned from my own children (and from my students) is that sometimes I must learn from their example, even if it means breaking the rules I feel so strongly about. They respect me more, and we both grow from the experience.
After the ink session was over, my girl and I put our wrists side by side and took photos. I thought to myself, I never told my kids to wear their faith on their sleeves, but perhaps that’s what it’s all about.
Besides, some day when I am dead and gone and can no longer speak for myself, perhaps someone will see that sacred name and know that’s who I followed. Sounds like a pretty good reason to break my own rules. Now I have to go work on my boy.