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His son was embarrassed about his birthmark. So he got a tattoo to match

A father in Canada got a tattoo in solidarity with his son who felt self-conscious being shirtless at the swimming pool.
Supportive dad Derek Prue got a tattoo on his torso similar to the birthmark that his 8-year-old son has.
Supportive dad Derek Prue got a tattoo on his torso similar to the birthmark that his 8-year-old son has.TODAY Illustration / Shanel Prue
/ Source: TODAY

We've all heard moving stories of fathers going above and beyond to make their kids feel good, even shaving their heads to match their little ones or creating hundreds of handmade outfits for them. Now one dad has taken things a step further by getting his torso tattooed, all in the name of showing his son that he can be proud of his birthmark.

Derek Prue, from the Canadian province of Alberta, was upset to see that his 8-year-old son, Derek Jr., felt the need to wear a shirt at the pool because he was self-conscious about the birthmark that covers a large part of his body. As Prue first told CBC TV, that's when he decided to find an artist who could ink him with a tattoo of the marking his son was born with.

"I didn't have any hesitation," Prue told TODAY about his decision, which required 30 hours of painful tattooing. "My son was feeling more and more self conscious as he was growing up, and the idea popped in my head to have the same mark as him. ... I saw it as a chance to make him feel more comfortable."

Prue ended up working with Tony Gibert at Juicy Quill Tattoo in Stony Plain. The studio shared a post to its Facebook page about its client's big gesture for his kid.

"Very cool that he could do this to help his (son's) confidence and that we could be a part of their story," the post from Dec. 10 said in part.

Prue, who has only one other tattoo from about 20 years ago, told TODAY that he was excited to surprise his son with his new ink, though the whole process was a huge undertaking.

"Little Derek's mom took pictures at different angles," Prue said, explaining how Gibert created the tattoo to look exactly like his son's birthmark. "She told him it was for the doctor." (Since Derek Jr.'s birthmark is so big, he gets it checked out once a year.)

"Tony then took all those pictures and proportionately did the dots in the same place and did the tracing," said Prue. "The first session was four hours. It was so painful, I was gritting my teeth. I asked, 'Are we done?' Tony said we were done with the outline. I had no idea it was such a big process."

Prue learned that the rib cage is one of the most painful places on the body to get inked, but that didn't deter him from carrying out his vision. He said the pain was "bearable" and that he was able to use topical freezing in some spots to lessen the feeling.

"The longest session I sat for was about six hours," he added, saying that he and Gibert would keep going "until one of us tapped out."

When it was finally time for the big reveal, Prue couldn't wait to see his son's reaction. They were swimming at a hotel pool when Prue removed his shirt, showing off the ink for the first time.

"He didn’t know what to think," Prue said. "He kept asking, 'Is it real?' He was smiling a lot. I could tell he felt good about it."

"I didn't have any hesitation," Derek Prue told TODAY about deciding to get a tattoo of his son's birthmark.
"I didn't have any hesitation," Derek Prue told TODAY about deciding to get a tattoo of his son's birthmark.Courtesy Shanel Prue

In the days that followed, Prue said his son was asking to see the tattoo all the time, partly in disbelief that it was permanent.

As for Prue, the whole ordeal was emotional for him.

"I wanted him to feel good," he said. "I don’t think any parent likes to see their child go through that, but everyone has at some point. ... This was one instance where I thought I could do something about it."

Prue added that, while this story has touched a lot of people, ultimately, he did it all for his son.

"The common denominator is, it’s OK to be different," he said. "Everybody feels that at some point, and it’s OK. And at the same time, if you can do something to make another person feel better, it’s rewarding. It was almost more rewarding for me than it was for him."