I started a blog by this title awhile ago, but I had no idea what I was talking about. Not really. For those who don’t know I haven’t been back to my blog much because I’ve been transitioning into the role of co parent to my partners two, young children. And while I’ve spent much of my life over the last few years nannying and building relationships with the amazing kids in my life, parenting is a whole new game.
Consent is something we just don’t do as a culture. We don’t ask, we don’t check in, we don’t talk about it when we’ve touched someone who didn’t want that touch. Couple that with the way many people view children as property that doesn’t know what’s best for them and we’ve created quite a dangerous world for our kids. And what we end up teaching our kids is that their bodies are not under their control and that other people will dictate when and how they are touched, cleaned, clothed, etc. And so we do, whether it be forcing a kid to give grandma a kiss goodbye or training them to acquiesce to the touch of others, put our children at high risk for abuse and teach them to ignore their own boundaries.
As a woman who was raped at 21 and who went through a series of relationships where I buried my own needs and boundaries, where i accepted my male partner’s desire as something i needed to accommodate, it has been very important to me that i equip Maya and Elijah with a strong sense that their bodies are theirs’ and no one else’s. That if someone is touching it in any way that makes them feel uncomfortable or that they don’t want, it is not okay. And that it is never their fault if someone does touch them that way.
After several conversations about our bodies, i was shocked and thrilled when M and E spontaneously started practicing consent culture. One night they just started asking each other before any new touch. They would ask, “can i give you a hug?” And then, “can i give you a monster hug?” There was no new touch without a check in. It was fucking amazing. And i recognized that
there were no “no’s” that night. Which is maybe the hardest part. So i waited.
And it didn’t take long for these resilient little beans to surprise me again. A couple of nights later i was putting them to bed by myself, which always requires some creative cuddling, because i am one person and they both just want to be held until they fall asleep. I was gently stroking maya’s head when she pulled her thumb out of her mouth and looked up at me. And she said, “Sara, can you please not touch my head?”
I was more than thrilled to stop immediately and say yes. I am sure we will have to keep reinforcing these norms as the kids grow. But i am so excited that at four years old Maya can state a boundary. It’s taken me years to articulate my own and i’ve got twenty years on her. I want so badly for these little ones to be strong and powerful and confident in their bodies everywhere they walk. And i want to be working with other kids on consent and boundaries as well. Stay tuned for more parenting oriented posts.