Stretch marks are no longer the only physical reminder of a child's birth for some moms. Portraits of children are turning up tattooed into the skin of moms (and dads, too).
The long-held bastion of anchors, skulls and snakes is being invaded by Teddy bears, baby footprints and Disney princesses as more parents get symbols of their children immortalized in ink on their skin.
We're talking kids' footprints. Their handprints. Their pictures. Even kids' artwork.
“It's super big right now,” says Steve Lemak, owner of The Quillian tattoo shop in Allentown, Pa.
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Heather “Hezz” Findlay, a tattoo artist at Mind's Eye Tattoo in Emmaus, says the shop does mom or dad tattoos three to four times a week and many are first-timers.
A 2006 survey by the American Academy of Dermatology found that 36 percent of Americans between ages 18 and 29 have at least one tattoo.
“I think all tattoos have meaning and provide identity to the person who chooses to get one,” says Lou Romano of Allentown, who has the names of his three children surrounding a Celtic tree of life printed on his back. “I identify myself first as a father, and nothing means more to me than my family,” he says.
Celebrity parents have helped fuel the trend by displaying tattoos honoring their kids.
Angelina Jolie has the latitude and longitude coordinates for the birthplaces of Maddox, Zahara, Shiloh and Pax on her upper arm.
Victoria “Posh Spice” Beckham has stars for each of her sons – Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz – on her lower back.
Rap artist Eminem has a portrait of his daughter, Hailie Jade, on his arm.
Johnny Depp has the names of his children, Lily-Rose and Jack, tattooed on his arm and chest.
Recent “Project Runway” winner, designer Jeffrey Sebelia, put parental tattoos front and center every week on the reality fashion show with a large tattoo of 2-year-old son Harrison Detroit's name in script across the front of his neck.
Tattoos celebrating children also are less likely to be regretted, Findlay says. “We prefer to do tattoos for children rather than boyfriends or girlfriends,” she says.
The most common tattoo is a child's name, artists say, and baby footprints are a close second.
Allyn Mason of Al's Gotham City Tattoos in Allentown says he does a lot of footprint tattoos, which he copies right from the baby's birth certificate so they are unique. “You can't go wrong with a kid tattoo,” he says.
Devon Marks of Palm, Pa.., had a portrait of her 2-year-old daughter, Tahlia, inked on her bicep. Although portraits are frequently done on the back, Marks says she wanted to be able to look at the tattoo.
“I wanted to immortalize her as she was at 2,” Marks says. “I always will remember her at this age. She has so much character and this picture really reflects her personality. Kids grow up so fast and this is something timeless.”
Findlay agrees that part of the attraction is that people want to remember their children when they are “innocent and wonderful.”
Tonya Barr of Allentown, Pa., recently got life-sized handprints of Rylie, 3, and Jaden, 4, tattooed on her back.
“They're everything to me, and they're only little once,” Barr says.
Barr was inspired when she saw Rylie playing with fingerpaints, so she had the children make their handprints in ink and took them to The Quillian. Two hours later, she had the tattoo.
“I love it,” she says. “Everyone who sees it thinks it's neat.”
Other parents have brought in artwork done by their preschoolers and asked to have it tattooed on their skin.
“At first I thought it was crazy,” Mason says of a dad who had his son's drawing tattooed on his ankle. “But when I was done, it was pretty cool.”