June 04, 2019
Something happened the other day that made me uncomfortable.
Whilst busying herself, with some snails, in her usual independent, quirky, little way; minding her own business and shoving said snails down the sleeves of her cardigan, Seren, my 22 month old was approached by a blond haired, cute little bruiser, of about 3.
Having clocked her from across the playground, his mother and I watched in amusement as he marched on over to join in on the fun. Only, he hadn't gone over to exchange snails for stones. His very first interaction was to smother Seren in hugs and kisses.
Now you might be thinking 'Aww, how sweet, an innocent gesture of playful childhood development' and yes, my first reaction was to laugh along (if not rather awkwardly) with his mother, who's response was 'Well, boys will be boys' and 'he can always find the girls to kiss, my Bertie, ho ho ho'
The thing is, Seren had no desire to be hugged and kissed by a boy she didn't know and asserted her authority and physical and emotional boundaries, by firmly pushing him away. Unfortunately this did not deter the boy who became even more forceful, with Seren's equally as forceful protests.
So here I am, laughing awkwardly, whilst Seren stands her ground, gently asking Seren not to push, and waiting politely for his mother to interject and teach her son that no matter what urges he might have, to respect a child's personal space and right to say no.
And for me to fall into the trap of politeness is a terrible example to set my daughter.
It's so easy to laugh these behaviours off as playful and excuse them with the notion that 'boys will be boys' but aren't we creating a new stream of cultural norms and social stereotypes in our children that we are trying so hard to dispel?
Isn't this the prime age to teach our children to believe in and understand gender equity? To start to eradicate the casual misogyny that is still so apparently rife in today's societies?
Don't we want to raise our children to be the change we want and need to see?
Anyway, I finally came to my senses, swooping my girl up and away, in that very stereotypical British way, politely excusing her for needing her own personal space.
Am I an overbearing, over protective mother? Maybe. But next time I'm not going to apologise for her behaviour, or discourage her from pushing someone away if she is uncomfortable.......... I'm going to encourage it.
May 31, 2019
This is so beautifully written and contains so much truth! At my home daycare, we talk about consent on the regular. Nobody is required to hug and/or kiss ANYONE regardless of the situation or who’s involved. We need to protect our children and teach them it’s OK to say NO. ❤️
This is so wonderfully written and such an important message. I’m certain I would have acted the same in your situation, maybe without ever thinking that we had a choice not to just be polite. I appreciate your thoughtfulness and awareness on the subject!
May 30, 2019
Amen! So well said! This is such an important example to set for our babies early on. Even with family members who can be overbearing and encroach on personal space, I always try and tell my kiddos, “Would you like to give a hug or a high five,” because not everyone wants to be bear hugged. Thanks for sharing, V!
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