“No kiss for grandma and grandpa?”
“Say hello to the kind lady!”
Teaching kids about social interactions is important, but not at the expense of agency over their bodies and comfort levels. If you want your daughters to believe it’s okay to say no and your sons to believe it’s important to listen (or vice versa), then show them! Teach consent now, while they’re little.
Just because you’re perfectly comfortable hugging a stranger you met ten minutes ago or snuggling grandma and grandpa the minute they walk in the door, doesn’t mean your child will be. And that’s okay. Their bodies don’t exist to satisfy anyone’s needs—even if those needs come in the platonic, well-meaning shape of a hug from Aunt Sally.
Introverts especially are often shamed into ignoring their boundaries. I once had to stand by while a friend demanded her son say hello to me. It was a painful three minutes. “It’s okay!” I said. She threatened to take away the toy held if he didn’t greet me. I lacked the courage to stand up for the little dude, and I feel badly about that.
It reminded me of all the forced apologies I witnessed (and sometimes mandated) as an elementary teacher.
Nothing forced is sincere. We know this, so why don’t we live it? Partly because we sincerely believe it’s how we teach good social skills. I think we’re also afraid of what people think when our child’s personality doesn’t jive with social norms. Afraid of what it says about our parenting skills.
This morning I told my daughter to change because her outfit looked ridiculous. I didn’t say those words, but that was my reason. She should be able to dress how she likes. My style is not her style. But the truth is, I worried how her fashion would reflect on me.
If people are going to be assholes and make assumptions about my parenting based on my kid’s ensemble, fuck ‘em.
If Uncle Joe or Walmart Beth are going to assume I lack parenting savvy because my kid won’t say hello, fuck them, too.
My child shouldn’t sacrifice her boundaries to win my love and approval. Or yours.