In the Parenthood

Kids are washable, remember?

Posted by Lylah M. Alphonse  June 25, 2010 11:19 AM

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Photos of 4-year-old Suri Cruise with her feet adorned with self-applied magic-marker tattoos are drawing more than a few mommy drive-byes from commenters who are taking Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes to task for being so lax with their little girl.

Relax, people. Kids are washable, remember? And what little kid hasn't scribbled on his or herself before?

Suri's artwork extends all the way up her legs (I think US Weekly calling it "henna like" is a bit of a stretch), so maybe they're supposed to be tights rather than tattoos. But what they really are is a sign that this little celebrity might just be a normal little kid when she's away from the paparazzi and gossip rags.

While on a family vacation about 10 years ago, my mother-in-law gave our then 5- and 3-year-old girls some washable markers to play with. The girls had a blast drawing on mustaches and beards, scribbling on their chests and armpits, and finally parading around the room singing, "We are men! We are meeeeennnnn!" We laughed and took pictures and had them pose with their baby brother, who grinned while holding markers in each hand. Then, we had to get ready to go somewhere, and so we grabbed baby wipes to clean up the girls.

"Washable"? Not so much. Sure, it might wash off things like walls or clothes, but off of children? We put them in the bathtub and scrubbed repeatedly, but they still went to dinner with very noticeable traces of magic-marker mustache on their little faces. For the next few days, in fact. Sure, I was a bit embarrassed by the looks shot my way, but then again, the step parenting thing was still very, very new to me, so I might have been imagining the censure rather than actually seeing any. And in the end I was just glad that they had drawn on themselves and not on any hotel furniture.

What havoc has your child wrought with a magic marker? And what did you do about it?

Lylah M. Alphonse is a Globe staff member and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day and blogs at Write. Edit. Repeat. E-mail her at and follow her on Twitter @WriteEditRepeat.

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11 comments so far...
  1. To funny! My mother and I were just talking about when my oldest son did this when he was a toddler. He was sleeping at her house one night and sneaked a marker into bed with him. He went in to bed clean as can be, but when everyone woke up the next morning he was covered in it. She asked him what had happened and he just told her he colored on himself.
    He did it one other time when my mother-in-law was watching him. I don't think she even knew. I took his shirt off to get him ready to take a bath and his chest was blue.
    We didn't do anything about it, other then to tell him markers were for paper. I'm not a big fan of markers anyway, so my youngest hasn't had any body art work done to himself.
    I saw the pictures of Suri and whatever, it happens!

    Posted by weymom June 25, 10 02:16 PM
  1. My sons both drew moustaches and beards on themselves when they were three and five. Luckily I noticed it early enough to get it washed off quickly - I then let them know that if they want to color on themselves, they can ask me for my makeup (eyeliner and lip liner pencils and mascara) and go nuts. I brushed beards on them with mascara and it call came off easily with eye makeup remover. They still draw with markers every now and again on their arms and legs but it comes off pretty easily.

    Posted by Jen June 25, 10 03:31 PM
  1. I was raised catholic and my parents used to tell me it's a sin against god to write on your skin.

    I'm now an atheist. :)

    Posted by Chrissy June 25, 10 05:00 PM
  1. People need to RELAX!! Sometimes things like this are a reminder that, "kids are kids."

    Posted by Beth McDonough June 25, 10 05:16 PM
  1. A couple of times my older daughter gave her sister a "haircut". That doesn't wash off, and is difficult to disguise.

    Posted by Carolyn June 25, 10 07:47 PM
  1. My 2 1/2 year old twins are covered in marker at least once a week. They color/ draw with their babysitter and she lets them use markers. It comes off with cold cream and then the next week it is back. No big deal at all.

    I saw the picture of Suri Cruise. I thought it was wonderful to see her doing something child-like. It seems that she is way too grown up for her true age. She's a kid after all.

    Posted by Momof3-Burlington June 25, 10 10:55 PM
  1. My kids have all done this. We try to hide the Sharpies. Toothpaste sometimes works to help get the remnants off. And a long soak works better than a short bath. Oh, and name brand markers are more truly washable than off-brand. That is money well spent.

    Posted by Reading mom June 26, 10 01:38 PM
  1. As a new mother, I find nothing wrong with it. Also, my niece always has temporary tattoos on her arms and legs and I think its just fine. They come off with rubbing alcohol, so no big deal if we have someplace to go.

    Posted by Alexis June 26, 10 07:39 PM
  1. I think a couple of creative moments with regular markers wouldn't be a health hazard, but the ingredients in regular markers aren't things that should be absorbed through your skin on a regular basis. Buy non-toxic markers and body paint that are made for children if you want to encourage body art.

    Posted by GMV June 27, 10 07:41 AM
  1. I have photos of my son (now 46) when he was three, covered with his own art work from various colored markers! Very creative! Don't all kids do this? Lighten up...the media would have us believe EVERYTHING is a health issue!

    Posted by Meme from Maine June 27, 10 03:30 PM
  1. Our 2 year-old's favorite canvas? Herself. In fact, I think it frustrated her when she discovered that crayons don't leave marks on tummies. But pens, markers, and paint are all fair game.

    Most recently, she got hold of a blue ball-roller pen, a fact I only discovered after taking her top off to get her ready for bed.

    Last night, after her bath, she decided she wanted to draw in her new tablet with so-called washable markers. Rose Art, YOU LIE!!! The drawing extended to her hands and arms, traces of which are still visible this morning.

    The coup de gras, however, was the day we had her finger painting a background for a collage as part of a Play-Skool "at home" project. I took her top off to keep her clothes relatively clean, but she proceded to paint her entire tummy and then her face and, as a finishing touch, put her head in the still wet pain on the cardstock.

    After all of this, she looked at her paint covered hands and said, "Yuck, Mommy! I wash hands now." It took two baths to get all the paint off. The water turned blue as soon as she hit the tub the first go around.

    Anyone who would give a Mommy Drive-By over a child covered in paint, marker or any other crafty material for that matter clearly has issues. Kids are supposed to be dirty. At least, that's how I was raised and I see nothing wrong with it.

    Posted by Phe June 28, 10 07:55 AM
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about the author

Lylah M. Alphonse
Lylah M. Alphonse is a member of the Globe Magazine staff and mom and stepmom to five kids. She writes about juggling a full-time career and parenthood at The 36-Hour Day, and about everything else at Write. Edit. Repeat. When she's not glued to the computer or solving a kid-related crisis, she's in the kitchen or, occasionally, asleep.

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