We love to work out some of our toddler wiggles at the playground but I've run into an unexpected problem. Shop is littlelittle bit of a flirt. When he sees a girl at the playground he approaches her and tries to hug her. To be fair, he does this with boys, too. Today, a girl named Melody* started playing with Shep. Within a few minutes, Shep offered her his sippy cup, shoving it toward her while he yelled, "JUICE!" Obviously he wanted to share, but the (very smart) little girl politely refused. I was impressed with her, and a bit frustrated with Shep.
I love that my son has a generous and affectionate heart. Really, I do. And I will gladly accept his sticky kisses and bumbling hugs, because someday too soon he won't offer them anymore. But not everyone wants that much physical touch, and that's perfectly okay! I've tried to teach Shep to ask first before touching - but he's only two, and hasn't picked it up quite yet.
Why is this important? Well, because I'd like it to be reciprocated. I want my children to be able to say "No", and for that request to be respected. That's not always how it is nowadays, so I'd like the change to start within him. Bodily autonomy is important to me, personally, as a sexual assault survivor. I feel most secure when I can control who touches me and how or why. Frankly, I feel unsafe and uncomfortable when someone touches me without my express permission. That's a feeling I never want anyone to feel, least of all my children.
Just yesterday, a (probably harmless) woman in line at Walmart was drawn to peek at Rory. She was in her carseat, in the bin of a cart (not riding on top, that's unsafe). She caught a glimpse, then whispered to her companion - I assume her mother. I glanced at the bags of chips and saw some movement out of the corner of my eye. The woman had walked back toward my cart, and was clucking her tongue and grinning widely at my daughter. Rory, being a baby, grinned back. I instinctively moved closer to the cart, but not quickly enough. The woman leaned her whole upper body into the cart, and ran a finger down my daughter's cheek. I steeled myself for a confrontation and calmly said, "No, thank you. You can look at my children but please don't touch them without asking." The woman frowned and limped away wounded, like I had slapped her hand. Which, I guess, in a way I had.
My brother-in-law was with me, and complimented me on my response. He knows better than most how fierce my mama bear can be, so he was impressed I wasn't harsher with her. I explained that most people have never given a thought to a child's consent, let alone credence. You draw more flies with honey, I explained. If you become aggressive, people shut down. Instead of changing their thought process and behavior, you alienate them while making yourself look bad. It's a delicate line to toe, that's for sure.
Hopefully, it's not too delicate of a line for Shep to understand. He needs to start asking for consent - every time. His mama will say yes every time. Lucky me!