Photo by Michelle Rawlins
Tanya and Adam Phillips’s baby girl Honey-Rae was born with an unusual bright red birthmark on her right foot that travels from her leg all the way up to her back. The British couple didn’t want their daughter to feel self-conscious about it, so they made an extraordinary gesture: They got matching tattoos that resemble Honey-Rae’s birthmark.
"We wanted Honey-Rae to feel special, that her birthmark was something to feel proud of and not embarrassed by,” Tanya, a stay-at-home mother, told the U.K.’s Mirror on Wednesday. “Most people might think it’s very extreme, but to us it was the natural thing to do to ensure our daughter never felt different or alone in the world.”
When Honey-Rae was born, Tanya says she cried at the realization that her daughter would most likely feel ostracized because of her birthmark. “For the first few months of her life, whenever we went out, I made sure her legs were covered up,” she says. “I couldn’t cope with stranger’s curious glances or whispering comments.”
Photo by Michelle Rawlins
But last summer, on a particularly hot afternoon, Tanya dressed her daughter in shorts and left the house to run errands. While standing in line at a store, a couple began staring at Honey-Rae’s leg. “I was distraught,” says Tanya. “It was first time I had taken her out without covering her up and it confirmed all my worries and fears. People are cruel without even realizing. And I knew if adults could be that insensitive, then kids at school would also be unintentionally mean.”
So over Christmas, her husband Adam covered his leg in a tattoo that resembles their daughter’s birthmark, a process that lasted two-and-a-half-hours. And last week for her 40th birthday, Tanya got her own tattoo, an experience she called “incredibly painful” but “worth every second.”
That was made all the more clear when Honey-Rae’s saw their parents’ tattoos. “When the swelling went down, I showed Honey-Rae, and she gently touched it and smiled as she said ‘Match,’ pointing to her own leg….She now constantly touches mine and Adam’s tattoos then her own birthmark and giggles — I couldn’t be happier,” says Tanya.
Empathy, the ability to deeply identify with and experience another’s emotions and thoughts, is a valued trait in children, but according to a recent study published by Harvard University, it’s also hard to find. Eighty percent of children value personal success and happiness over the wellbeing of others, per the report. The Phillips’s exemplify emphatic parenting, which will likely cause their child to develop the quality. And the family is just one example. In 2012, when a German father discovered that his five-year-old son loved to wear dresses, he bought a skirt for himself and the pair strolled around town. “I didn’t want to talk my son into not wearing dresses and skirts,” dad Nils Pickert told the German magazine EMMA. “He didn’t make friends in doing that in Berlin already and after a lot of contemplation I had only one option left: To broaden my shoulders for my little buddy and dress in a skirt myself.”