The smoking chicken

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LORI WELBOURNE/Guest Columnist

Last week I took my children to the Kid’s Fair and the first thing that caught their eye was a man giving airbrush tattoos.

Out of the hundreds of design options displayed inside the walls of his tent, I picked a few of my favourites: a daisy, a dragonfly and a sweet little heart design. My eight year old daughter had other ideas.

“Those are nice,” she said. “But this is the one I want.” I looked at what she was pointing at. It was a smoking chicken.

Surprised by her choice I asked her why she wanted that particular one.

“Because it’s funny,” she said, laughing. It was hard to argue with that.

The tattoo covered half of her leg from the knee down, and unless you got a close look, it was hard to tell exactly what it was.

For those curious enough to get a good peek, most of them found it humourous. But not everyone.

“That’s not appropriate for a child,” one woman counseled me sternly. “It teaches her that smoking is okay.” Relieved that my ten year old son wasn’t standing next to me with his TNT dynamite tattoo, I asked Daisy if she thought smoking was okay.

“No!” she said, pinching her nose. “Smoking’s gross!” To that the woman shook her head and walked away.

We ran into some friends immediately after that and I told them what just happened. One of them inspected Daisy’s leg and informed me quietly that the chicken wasn’t smoking a cigarette. “I know,” I told him. “It’s a cigar.”

“Ah no,” he said. “It’s not a cigar either.” I looked at it again. The inappropriate tattoo suddenly became even more so.

“Well, Daisy doesn’t know that,” I said sheepishly. “She just thinks it’s funny.”

“It is funny,” he laughed. “The whole thing’s funny.”

When I caught up with my husband later on I updated him on the woman’s reaction and what I’d learned about the chicken from our friend and he laughed as well. “It’s a cartoon tattoo that washes off,” he said. “If anything it’s positive because it starts conversations.”

Always happy to do that, I felt better about allowing our daughter to choose the chicken. Smoking came up a couple times that day and it turned out that our kids knew more about the subject that we realized from what they’d learned in school.

And, apart from the silly chicken on her leg, they thought everything about smoking was dumb and disgusting. Here’s hoping they keep that opinion.

“Thank goodness that thing washes off,” one of my girlfriends said to me the next day. “You won’t get any votes for mother of the year with that on her leg!”

I guess writing an article about the experience won’t either. Oh well. It’s still a conversation worth starting.

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