The following is an article by Jacob E. Osterhout of NEW YORK DAILY NEWS:
Here’s a guide for any parent who ever hid a tattoo from a child.
Upper West Side artist Phil Padwe has released his second ink-stained children’s book, “Daddy Has a Tattoo.”
To teach tattoo tolerance to the next generation of New Yorkers, the 32-page, colorful book tells the story of two kids. They go on a journey to solve the mystery of their fathers’ tats.
“Children have a voracious curiosity, especially when it comes to colorful body art,” says Padwe, a 40-year-old former guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “This book is meant to start a fun, lighthearted dialogue with these kids about tattoos, which, whether you like it or not, have become part of mainstream culture now.”
Padwe has sleeves of tattoos (nearly 40 in all) on both his arms and back. But he’s quick to point out that his latest book is not meant to encourage kids to get tattoos.
“This book is not heavy-handed in any way,” he says. “There is no moral lesson one way or the other. And I am certainly not preaching that a child should get tattooed. That would be crazy.”
Even a children’s book about body art might seem crazy to those who have never contemplated getting inked. But for heavily tattooed parents like Mary and Jeffrey Garnett of White Plains, Padwe’s book helped explain body art to their 10- and 14-year-old sons.
“Both my sons loved the book because it dealt with an issue that they see every day, but rarely talk about,” says Mary Garnett, who removes tattoos (no kidding) for a living.
“It’s important because there will come a time that my sons will notice that people treat me differently because of my tattoos,” says Mary. “They loved the pictures and they loved the message of empathy and understanding.”
Of course, there are no shortage of naysayers who believe that Padwe is setting a bad example.
When Padwe’s first book, “Mommy Has a Tattoo,” was published in 2006, Joseph Farah at news site wnd.com asked rhetorically, “Just as ‘Heather Has Two Mommies’ is now required reading for kindergartners in some school districts, how long will it be before the tolerance police mandate Phil Padwe’s new books?”
Such criticism does not faze Padwe.
“Some websites basically said that my book was the next stop on the train to hell,” he says. “I don’t think it is wrong to teach kids to not be scared of people with tattoos.”
He remembers when “parents used to see my tattoos and literally grab their kids to pull them away from me.” But body art is now more widely accepted and many more parents have tattoos themselves.
According to a February Harris Poll, 21% of adults in America are tattooed. That number climbs to 38% for 30-to-39 year olds.
“Daddy Has a Tattoo” is Padwe’s latest tribute to something he’s loved all his life. He used to beg camp counselors to draw fake tattoos on his arms. Then he’d refuse to jump in a lake for fear the images would wash off.
“When I was a little kid, Cracker Jacks were my favorite, because they came with a temporary tattoo,” he says. “I got my first real tattoo on my 18th birthday. It was a skull with a snake in its mouth. I couldn’t have been more cheesy if I tried.”
In that memory lies another lesson Padwe would like to teach children.
“From my own experience, I would preach the virtue of waiting to get a tattoo until you can make a wise decision,” he says. “The truth is, it does affect the way people see you — even your family. Ironically, my wife does not have any tattoos, and when her family first met me, they certainly raised a collective eyebrow.”
Even for Padwe, though, there are limits.
“The first tattoo that the younger generation is getting is their necks and faces and their hands,” he says. “I know I have tattoo sleeves, but I’m just too timid to venture up my neck or my face or my hands.
“But to each his own. The whole point of this book is to be as accepting as possible.”