For years, Joey Kneisl of Crystal contemplated a design for his 18th-birthday tattoo. After much discussion with his mother, he selected a scorpion for the right side of his upper back.
Mary Kneisl, 42, paid for the ink as a gift for the milestone birthday. She drove her son to Guns N' Needles in Uptown Minneapolis, where she had gotten the most recent of her four tattoos. Joey fought back tears as the tattoo artist worked, while Mary shot video and cheered him on.
"Looking really wicked there, Joey," she said, raising her voice over the tattoo gun's buzz. "You'll love it. It will be worth every minute of the pain."
"I was glad she was there," Joey said. "It felt like razor blades on my back. I'm a mama's boy, always have been."
Four years earlier, Mary Kneisl marked her daughter's 18th birthday in the same way, paying for a pair of intertwined fish tattooed on the birthday girl's ankle.
"I wanted to give them something they'd have forever," she said. "I gave them their birth signs, Scorpio and Pisces. I want to help them write their own story."
Brian Siegel, the tattoo artist who created Kneisl's scorpion, has noted a rise in the number of teens spending their big day at his shop since a 2010 Minnesota law was passed, prohibiting tattoos for anyone under 18. The birthday now represents the first opportunity to flash an ID and order the ink.
Most newly legal celebrants arrive with friends, but Siegel said it's not unusual for parents to bring in their child-turned-young adult.
"I recently did one on a young man that was a version of a tattoo I did for his dad," Siegel said. "He grew up looking at it and it was a compliment to his father to choose the same thing at 18."
Parental reaction to inking may be generational. Gen X parents may be more likely to be on board with body art because they may be tattooed themselves. A 2010 study by the Pew Research Center found that 38 percent of millennials, ages 18 to 29, have at least one tattoo. The same study reported that 32 percent of Gen Xers sport tattoos; in baby boomers the number was 15 percent.
"An 18th-birthday tattoo is an act of claiming independence," said Al Lindbeck, manager at Lucky Linda's Body Art in Shakopee. The shop offers discounts on tattoos during the month of a customer's 18th birthday.
But Lindbeck, who has 10 tattoos himself, said he often draws the line.
"I turn kids away all the time. I won't give an 18th-birthday tattoo on their neck or hands. I won't do something stupid that a kid is going to regret."
Before the law prohibiting the tattooing of minors was enacted, Shahn Anderson, owner of Electric Dragonland Tattoo, had a number of parents who brought their minor children to his Hopkins shop, seeking to have them inked.
"The youngest that a parent ever brought in was, I think, 12," he said. "We don't tattoo children here. We didn't before the new law, even with parental consent. This is a permanent mark on the body and it's an adult game."
Nick Settich, a technician who uses lasers to remove ink at Northeast Tattoos, finds remorse is high with first tattoos. He suspects it's because the act of getting the tattoo becomes more important than the choice of the image.
"A lot of times it's a childhood nickname or a first love, something juvenile or dated," he said. "I take off a lot of band logos or imagery from music they don't listen to anymore."
But the law that passed to protect minors is being circumvented by unlicensed, and often untrained, amateurs. Teens unwilling to wait for their 18th birthdays are going underground, turning to so-called scratchers -- self-taught, unlicensed tattooists who do their work in homes and at parties.
"It's an unfortunate consequence of a very good law," Settich said. "We've seen a huge, huge, huge jump in underage people coming in with just awful work."
He said he recently completed an extensive laser tattoo removal procedure on a 17-year-old girl who had 15 homemade tattoos.
Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus and Chris Brown are among the young celebrities who sported multiple tattoos before their 18th birthdays.
"Teens see that and want to imitate them. They think they're ready," said Kyle Renell, staff attorney with the Health Occupations Program of the Minnesota Health Department. She is the sole investigator assigned to reviewing violations of the body art statute.
Parents with reservations about a birthday tattoo should discuss their expectations well in advance of the big day, according to Julie Erickson, a clinical psychologist for adolescent health at Children's Hospitals and Clinics Minnesota.
"Bring it up. Say, 'I hear this happens,'" she advised. "Avoid threats and absolutes. If parents come down hard and forbid it, it may make it more appealing and even more likely that a young person will go through with it."
A tattoo can represent who has the power and control in a young adult's life, Erickson said, so it can set the stage for the next phase of parenting.
Mary Kneisl was a teenager when she got her first tattoo, a long-gone boyfriend's name on her thigh. She had it removed and replaced it with a rose.
"It was a rebellious thing. My mom had a fit," she recalled. "She said I blemished my body. It [the attitude] has changed in a generation."
Kevyn Burger of Minneapolis is a broadcaster, podcaster and writer.