HuffPost UK spoke to five dedicated dads who have tattoos inspired by their kids, to find out the meanings behind the designs and how they make them feel.
“I like the idea that they go with me wherever I am in the world - I like that permanency and it gives me a weird sense of security knowing they’ll always be with me,” says Rob McFarland, who got a tattoo of a watch when his son Max was born three years ago. Last month his daughter Sophie was born and he now plans to get a tattoo for her too.
Rob decided to get a rustic watch design to mark the birth of his first child, because there is a watch in his family that has been passed down for the last four generations and is still “going strong”.
“I wanted something that was both meaningful and could also display his time of birth and date of birth,” he says. “I’ll eventually pass that watch on, but it means I’ve always got something special with me.”
The 32-year-old, from Omagh in Northern Ireland, has built up a collection of tattoos to mark special moments in his life and he says Max calls them “Daddy’s drawings on his arm.”
“Max likes running his fingers over them when we’re watching tele together and asking me about their stories,” he says.
Rob is now considering designs that could include Sophie’s birth date and time, but also likes the idea of a baby deer, “because when she was born she had the most amazing Bambi eyes, which everyone who held her got lost in for hours”.
Another dad who has got an animal tattoo in honour of his child is Pete Wallroth, 38, from North Derbyshire. He has a bumblebee tattoo on one shoulder for his daughter, Martha, nine, and a dragon tattoo on the other for his son Merlin, five. He plans to get a stag tattoo later this year for his three-month old son, Flynn.
“When my wife Mair and I were pregnant in 2009 with Martha we called the bump ‘Bumbelina’ so it stuck as a bee theme as she got older,” he explains.
Pete’s dragon tattoo was inspired by his middle child’s name, Merlin, which in turn was inspired by the fact Mair was diagnosed with breast cancer while pregnant with him in 2012.
“He was the magic in the midst of trauma and as, according to folklore, Merlin convinced the white and red dragons to cease fighting to save the world, a dragon was an appropriate symbol,” Wallroth explains. “Mair sadly passed away when he was 10 weeks old and after I had her meditation mantra done in Tibetan on my back, I then added the kids on each shoulder. Both the bee and dragon sit on a star, which they protect, to represent mum.”
The stars also symbolise the cancer in pregnancy charity Mummy’s Star, which was set up in Mair’s memory.
Wallroth met his partner Nic two years ago and his stag Tattoo for baby Flynn will be a nod to the animals Pete managed to photograph while they were on a trip to Skye last year.
“My tattoos are bit of a spiritual thing for me. I love knowing I have a permanent link to both of the children on my body, but also a link to my wife and her giving birth to them both. Likewise, when I add a further one for Flynn it’ll feel the same. Realism is a style I love but it’s what they symbolise that means the most.”
Ben Tompsett, 31, from Kent, had his daughter Holly’s name and a holly leaf, tattooed on his back shortly after she was born 20 months ago.
“I had tattoos before, so when we had Holly there was no question I was gonna get her name. They’re your kids forever, no matter what, so you’ve gotta put that on you for life, right?!” he says. “It just feels good to have her name with me forever. I guess when you love something that much, you just want to commit anyway you can.”
But not all tattoos inspired by children are done soon after they are born. John Lindlar, 59, from Marlborough, Wiltshire, got his first tattoo in 2012 at the age of 54.
“My eldest son, a heavily tattooed ex-soldier, was living in Toronto and when I visited him there we completed a dare that I’d get a tattoo,” he says. “I went for a Sailor Jerry style-something that looked like I might have had it for years.”
For John, it was a “no-brainer” to have the initials of his four adult children incorporated in the image. “They are my proudest achievement,” he says.
“Tattooing is very addictive and since then I’ve had several more done, the latest being a bunch of little purple flowers for my new granddaughter, Violet. I’m so proud and excited to be her Grandpa. My other children are feeling under pressure to give their future offspring names that are nouns, so that I can keep celebrating their arrivals.”
John found a way to incorporate all four of his children into one tattoo, something that Shihab S Joi, 46, may consider, as he decided to get a tattoo after his second child was born, not knowing at the time he would go on to have a third.
“I thought seeing as I’ve had a girl and boy I was done on that front so decided to mark it – literally,” jokes Shihab, who is dad to Maiya, 21, Otis, 14, and Leela, three.
“A friend needed the practice, and I’ve always preferred raw tattoos than fancy ones anyway. As she was inking, I had my favourite music on and thought about my kids - I wanted the moment to be profound, so I’d always remember how I felt at the time.”
Shihab decided to have Maiya and Otis’ names tattooed in Bengali. “I didn’t want them to be immediately obvious to anyone else - I genuinely wanted this for myself, as I think all tattoos should be,” he explains.
Not wanting to miss Leela out, he’s now “playing around” with tattoo design ideas for her. “Tattoos have gotten so elaborate these days there are lots of new things I want to go for but they have to match,” he says. “Not least because I can’t have the older two think Leela means more to me!”