The Tattoo

AMDGIt was the parental conversation when I realized I had lost all control. “You are not getting a tattoo!” I declared to my 18-year-old son, who just smiled back at me slyly with that I-love-you-but-you-know-you-can’t-do-anything-about-it look.

Eight more months and he will move out of the house, and while he is counting every day with anticipation, I am counting them with dread. I question every decision we made along the way. I panic at the realization that in his teenage bravado he could make such a huge mistake and I can’t stop it. Where did I go wrong? Why won’t he listen to me? Is he really going to do this or is he just messing with me? What could possibly mean so much to him that he would want to imprint it on his body forever?

But all of my protests and arguments were flattened in one breath, and I was struck to my core.

A.M.D. G.” he answered. “That’s what I would get.”

The implications washed over me. The sole brand with which he would mark his body was the call to live for the greater glory of God. Every rant I had made now came back to haunt me. Suddenly I knew all those decisions we made along the way had a far greater impact than I had ever dreamed. And the panic of not having control melted into grateful realization that Someone else most definitely did. Inside, my Iggy voice reminded me, “All things on the face of the earth—yes, even tattoos—are created for people to praise and reverence and serve God, and from this people should use them as far as they help and discard them as much as they hinder.” My heart wanted to cry tears of joy, but I had to stay cool about it.

“Oh,” I stammered before a sudden silence filled the room. And then I said the only thing that came to my mind.

“Maybe I should get one too.”


  1. A.M.D.G. is from St. Ignatius of Loyola. He also asked people to see God in everything and everyone. For me, the tattoo of A.M.D.G. is the picture of seeing God’s love in God’s creation everywhere, but not limited to look the words or picture on one self flesh. There are many other ways can be reminders, visible or invisible by others. The question I gave to my child was, is this the best and the only way to do it?

    • Yvonne, of course wouldn’the be the best and only way to do it. It would be a daily reminder for those moments when we loose sight.

  2. A friend shared this with me and I was stunned. I thought it was about me for a minute because I had the exact same conversation with my parents a few months ago. I have never regretted my tattoo for a second (which is AMDG on my wrist) but I’ve also never felt that someone understood it as completely as you and your son seem to. I would love to talk to you both more about this because it is such a huge part of my life that such few people understand.

  3. My son Jordan, a graduate of U of D Jesuit High School in Detroit, also decided at the age of 18, before entering his 1st year of college, to get A.M.D.G. spelled out utilizing the inside of his right and left arms. “Magis”

  4. Dear Lisa,
    Tonight I received an email from one of my sons with a link to a Youtube video of a river he had canoed down on Sunday. I was left wondering why is it my children tell me about the dangerous things they do AFTER they have done them? At least it stop me worrying when they are doing them!
    I raised my children thinking that they were only mine for a short while. The whole purpose of my parenting was to send them out from our home. I had to help them learn, not just to follow the road map but how to read it, how to decide which road to take, maybe even how to choose which map to pick up in the first place. My youngest is now 29; the others are 31, 34 and nearly 36.
    I still worry about them; they are still “mine” in a special way but, they are also their own people too. I am grateful for every good thing they do and thank God that somewhere along the road I got some of it right – not all of it (the perfect parent hasn’t yet been born), but at least some of it.
    Keep going, Lisa, you have many more years of parenting ahead of you, even if he leaves home this year at 18.

    • Heh heh, Olive — I never told my parents anything until years after the fact sometimes and often not at all. Paranoid as they were about every little thing, it was better to be quiet. My mother would stay awake at night worrying about the train that went through town and what if her kids walked on it. I only did it once and never told her. Not a good idea. However 30 years later I stayed awake at night worrying about my own family going where I knew in advance etc etc etc. I had to shore up the divine troups when they went on a cruise. It worked, I never worried one little notch.

  5. Dear Lisa, I wrote a reaction yesterday about tats & love and then your piece appears and I felt the need to write again. I have a full back tattoo of Our Lady of Guadalupe & I can assure you that the controls in place for one’s health and safety, at least here in poor, backward New Mexico, are strictly adhered to. As for your idea to get one, DON’T! I’m still one of those old chauvinists who still cringe at the sight of women tattooed. Forgive me. As for you son, what a great idea. Maybe telling the world that this is how he intends to live his life: + A.M.D.G.+ He’s a lucky young man to have such obviously very good parents. God bless you all.

  6. That’s funny, Lisa. I would worry more about the sterility of the needle and the protocol of the person doing the needlework than the message — tatties can be removed easier than some infections. Your son is stamping his new autonomy and remembers who the Boss really is.

  7. Yes, parenthood is challenging. Our children like to drop a “bomb” without telling the entire story and then shock us with the good news portion. But the real lesson that you have shared so well, Lisa, is that our children are in the hands of our Lord and have been entrusted to us for a while during which time we do our best and then step back. Thank you for sharing this story with such humility.


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