Consent. Quite possibly, one of the biggest buzz words of our time. It strikes a thorn in every grandparent’s side and makes mothers cringe every time their child is forced to hug Uncle Biff. Hugging is no longer mandatory at the end of a visit, and older generations are confused as to why.
Unfortunately, times have changed, and yesterday’s problems are not what our children are burdened with today, and teaching our kids about consent cannot wait until they’re ready to date.
(Stands on mid-century modern soapbox)
I have had many conversations with grandparents about consent and how I’m raising my daughter to be an advocate for herself, and it’s frustrating AF for both sides. My own father has admitted that embracing the standards I set for Emme hasn’t been easy because he was raised so differently. Our parents/older generations were raised to respect adults, no matter what, and that love is shared through physical touch. I disagree. I have taught my daughter that it’s okay to question authority, and if she doesn’t want to be touched or hugged, that it’s okay to say no in a respectful way. It’s not rude; it’s her boundaries. Her body, her choice.
Consent isn’t just about sex as it was in decades past, and our kids are suffering because of it. We are living during the time of #MeToo and need to teach our kids that they are in control of their bodies now so that later they can be comfortable saying no when the stakes are higher. The sooner we teach consent, the better off our kids will be, because if we continue on as we have, we will not be learning from our mistakes, and nothing will change.
Take, for instance, when my daughter freaked out on a relative over Thanksgiving. This relatives’ love language is touch. Emmes’ is not. She much prefers air hugs, like her mama, if you will.
You can imagine where this is going.
After many variations of, “Please stop.” my girl lost it. It was awkward. My daughter had respectfully vocalized her dissent and her boundaries were being ignored, yet she was made to look like the the a-hole and called mean and rude. The fact that I also didn’t lose my cool is a performance warranted of an Academy Award.
I stood my ground because while her reaction wasn’t desirable, I saw where she was coming from. You poke the bear, and the bear will eventually bite you.
I believe that we don’t owe anyone physical affection. Respect and affection can be shared in other ways, such as spending time together or using our words. We teach our kids the importance of consent so that they are comfortable making decisions about their own bodies and not worrying about placating someone else while doing it respectfully. And if I believe adults shouldn’t be forced into physical contact, why should I allow my daughter to be forced into physical contact?
It is a hill I’m ready to die on.
I believe that no one means any harm, but when someone doesn’t give consent, and you continue to touch them, you are telling them that their voice and body isn’t theirs. It can also grow a sense of mistrust in adults with children because we are the ones, especially as parents, who are here to protect them, and if we aren’t listening, we’re missing the mark. We should welcome children’s autonomy, no matter how hard it may be, because they are humans capable at young ages to make decisions for themselves, and as Queen Whitney Houston once sang, the children are our future.
Times up folks, let’s do better.