“Being the best is great. You’re the number one. Being unique is greater. You are the ONLY one.” (Wilson Kanadi)
I couldn’t tell you when it happened but when Rachel, our youngest (read more about her HERE), was about 13 or 14 years old, she told me she wanted to get a tattoo, actually FIVE tattoos. After my initial internal “yikes” response and my “not-so-hidden” external gasp, I drummed up the courage to ask her what these FIVE tattoos were and why she was in desperate need to mark up her sacred body (as I so lovingly reminded her which was responded to by some eye-rolling).
Mustering my highly uncomfortable “listen-whether-you-like-it-or-not” skills and “don’t-make-any-faces” expertise (Okay. You got me. It’s true. I have absolutely zero expertise in this area), I listened as she surprised me. All on her own, she had discovered FIVE things that she loved in this life, FIVE parts of our common humanity that made her heart come alive and that she would hold tightly onto no matter how old she became. She had a symbol for each one that she wanted tattooed on the inside of each of her FIVE fingers. I listened with bigger ears and a broader heart (good parent award) and breathed a sigh of relief that the tattoos would be so small that no one would probably ever notice them (shallow, worried-about-what-others-might-think parent booby prize). She had discovered how she was specifically designed and made it her mission to invest in what made her heart flutter as she traveled her unique life’s journey.
HEART – This symbolizes “love.” Her desire to invest in people and relationships: from family to friends, from those on the fringes to those on the inside, from the easy-to-like to the hard-to-tolerate. (Mom note: Rachel is a ball of unconditional love. Those who meet her feel instantly like they are the only person in the room. Her smile is contagious and her grace is infectious.)
PUZZLE PIECE – Since Rachel was a tot, she has loved puzzles. From 3rd grade on, we have had a puzzle table set up in our family room that is constantly filled with pieces waiting to be gathered into a picture. She has a special puzzle table at college and is part of the “puzzle-of-the-month” club. This is no small matter in this girl’s life and it gives her a place to unwind, yet allows her brain a much-loved boost. Some people run for endorphins. Rachel does puzzles. (Mom note: she gets this from my genes. She and I are going to have a puzzle contest this summer to see who can get the same puzzle done quicker. Please pray for me. I think I might have met my match and most likely, my superior.)
CROSS – Jesus. This is plainly and simply about her fierce attachment to Her Savior, Confidant, Best-Friend, Provider and Lover of her Soul. Her pure heart for the spiritual and her complete understanding of the intentional, passionate love of God and His unconditional acceptance of her has given her an unspoken confidence. (Mom note: She is unwavering in her own truth, yet never judges another who isn’t quite there yet. It’s one way that I want to be like her.)
WAVE – This one symbolizes all things water, especially her love of the ocean. She grew up swimming like a fish, always in our pool (in fact, we built it especially for her), and as soon as she got a taste of the sand and the sea, there was no turning back. Her heart swells for any and all days that she can spend at our beloved Long Beach Island and she braves our Garden State Parkway to get to the ocean any which way she can. (Mom note: Thank God we live in NJ and she goes to college in Central Florida. It’s the perfect place for a one-hour ride to this dream that she consistently makes a reality.)
MUSIC NOTE: From the little musical play that she was in as a child TO her fierce commitment to learning the guitar in middle school TO quitting lacrosse to pursue her passion for recording arts, Rachel reminds me that music sets her soul on fire. Music is one of the truest friends of her creative heart and mind. It gives her a place to create and connect, to relax and rejuvenate, to express and find refuge. (Last Mom note: I couldn’t believe it when she told me she wanted to take voice and piano lessons her senior year. After only a few short months but a lot of hard work, here was the result: ENJOY IT HERE!)
Every so often, I check in with Rachel about her FIVE things and which ones she’s finding easy and or more difficult depending on the season she’s in. Last week, when she returned home for her summer break and we were riding bikes at the beach, we spoke about this. She shared that this latest season of intense schooling for her future recording arts career has not allowed her to give attention to some of these FIVE. She is determined to spend the next eight weeks rediscovering and investing in them. However, just as in all things, it’s not that simple. The more complicated part is that it might mean saying “no” to some really good so that she can say a deeper “yes” to the important. And guess what? The puzzle table is back up. She’s reading Love Does by Bob Goff to get to know Jesus just a little bit better. She’s spending every possible minute either out by our pool or at the beach soaking in the sun and sand. She’s investing time and energy into her two best friends from home, her closest friend at school and her awesome family (If I say so myself, and I guess I just did, we are awesome!). And never-to-be-neglected, she is playing piano and guitar until the wee hours (I fell happily asleep last night as I listened to these pierce the quiet of our home) along with becoming better at “ear something or other” that I don’t even understand.
As a welcome home surprise, I bought her FIVE rings that have her FIVE things. The sparkle in her eyes as she opened the gifts told me everything I longed for. One of the main hopes I have as a parent had come true in this beautiful young woman: I desire that each of my children learn and then pursue who they uniquely are. I don’t want my children to be like me. (In fact, the term “Minnie-Me” gets me all up in my grill.) I truly want them to be themselves, to be the “one-of-a-kind” God has designed to be. It goes back to my favorite Dr. Seuss quote of all time, “Today, you are you. That is truer than true. There is no one alive that is youer than you.” I will be me. You be you!
The other day, Rachel reassured me that she no longer wants those tattoos on her fingers. I felt great relief for a brief moment until she blurted out, “Meg and I are going to get beach bike tattoos this summer.” My hope of a small, almost invisible tattoo is fading quickly. Yet, my hope for this girl to blossom in all her Rachelness is exploding!
Rachel has caused me to think about my own FIVE things. What symbols would I choose for what makes me unique, “one-of-a-kind”? What makes my heart come alive? What do I want to invest in that speaks of who I am and allows me to leave my very own personal mark on this lovely world that no one else can because they are just not me? What might I need to say “no” to for my deeper “yes”? I wrote a few of them down this morning. Stay tuned to a future blog post! What are your FIVE, or FOUR, or however many?
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6 thoughts on ““I Want Five Tattoos!” (My 13 Year Old)”
This is fantastic! I think I will use this summer to examine my five too!
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Wonderful! I love Rachel’s choices and the reasons why. My daughter (youngest of three) just graduated from HS Friday. We had her party Saturday. A flurry of activity as usual! I didn’t give her the card that I chose until this morning and..the one I chose had my favorite Dr Seuss quote, which is the same one as yours. I have always told her to be her own person and she certainly is! XXOO
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That’s so funny!!
I always enjoy reading what you write. Especially this one! Thanks for sharing your wisdom.
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Thanks Laura! I would imagine this is something you know all too well! You have six completely unique children!!! Have a great day!