“Do not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.” –Thoreau

18 December 2013

Hands Off. Even Little Hands.

Recently, Soraya Chemaly wrote an article for The Huffington Post about why it isn't okay to 'steal kisses.' It was a response to the news that a 6-year-old boy in Colorado was suspended for kissing his classmate on the cheek.

I really don't have much to add to Chemaly's essay. I think it's brilliant. Probably because I agree.

"The boy kissed his classmate on the hand. He'd previously been disciplined for kissing her on the cheek and 'rough housing' too... roughly. After this last incident, the school suspended him. He is endearing and he's 6 and as so many are fond of pointing out 'boys will be boys.' But, the girl he kissed without permission is also probably endearing, also 6 and not interested in his touching her. The hard and unpleasant part, for many, is the idea that her right not to be involved in his working through learning self-control is legitimate."

The emphasis is mine. It's a complicated way to put this.

How about:

The boy has to learn to respect other people's boundaries.
It isn't the girl's responsibility to help him learn it.


Of course, all kids touch each other. They touch everything. So perhaps the impulse to touch isn't a problem--it's natural. But there are plenty of things we naturally do that we have to learn to control. The larger issue is that we have to make sure that we teach our children that 1) you shouldn't touch someone else's body without their permission and 2) you have a right to say "no" when someone touches you, and to insist that it is respected.

This little girl has a right to decide who touches her, and how. We all have this right from childhood. More than any other idea, this philosophy is influencing my parenting. I want Fiona to know that her body is her own; even I, as her mother, don't have the right to tell her what to do with it. I can guide her, I can set boundaries for safety, but ultimately she is autonomous. The goal is to teach her about respect--respect for her own body, her own self-worth, as much as for others. That is a very difficult thing to teach a little girl growing up in the United States of America today.

I hope you read the article.
I hope it makes you think.
I hope you have an excellent day.