Saturday, December 7, 2013

Don't Touch Me



 I have to admit, I am an affectionate mother. I love nothing more than to cuddle with my babies. I want to smother them with kisses. I want to chew on their toes. I want to pat and pinch and squeeze and tickle them. But my children's feelings have to come first.


My oldest and youngest children seem to be just as affectionate as me. My teenager will still curl up next to me for cuddles. And my son will lean in for kisses and hugs all day. But my middle child is different.

From the time she was a little baby, Birdie didn't want to be touched too much. She didn't want to be held. She didn't want to be rocked to sleep. She would scream and cry the entire time she was in my arms. But once I laid her in her crib she would fall right to sleep. I realized that kissing and cuddling were fulfilling my needs, but ignoring hers. At a young age she had set a boundary with me and I needed to respect it.


Last night as Birdie was getting ready for bed I leaned in to kiss her goodnight. Her eyes got big and she held out her hand, "Bubble, MOM! Personal bubble!"

Just like when she was a baby, my first reaction was to be hurt. But I quickly squashed it down. This wasn't about me. "Baby," I said, "Thank you for reminding me. You have every right to not want to be kissed. You have the right to tell me, Daddy, Grandma or Grandpa, or anyone else that you don't want kisses or hugs. Your bubble is yours alone and you get to decide who can come in and who can't." She smiled at me and I saw her body relax.

My children should all have this lesson. While some may feel that they have the right to kiss and hug as much as they want, my children need to know that they have control over their bodies. They need to know that others need permission to enter their space. It is a privilege not a right.

So this holiday, remember. If a child does not want to kiss Grandma, or Uncle Joe, please don't make them. Respect your child and their caution. And they will learn to respect their own inner voices.

 A while after our discussion, Birdie came and gave me a hug. She pulled my face down to her level and kissed my cheek and said, "I love you, Mommy." And that freely given kiss was the best kiss ever.

8 comments:

  1. I really admire you for not taking it personally. It must be so hard. I always want to be so physically affectionate with my son. But you are so right that its is their body and they have every right to decide when the will and won't allow others into their space. We don't 'require' Goblin to kiss relatives - and sometimes they don't get why - but he's usually willing to give a high five which seems to appease even the oldies. Thanks for a great reminder.

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    1. Hi fives are a great idea. Any thing that makes sure your child knows they have a choice. I also will ask, "May I kiss you?" Sometimes she will say, "No but you can hug me." She likes having that choice.

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  2. Due to childhood traumas of my own, I have always been a very strict advocate for children being encouraged to own their body and be allowed to set their own personal boundaries. That is why our family has a "no means no" policy. Whenever someone is having a tickle fight or wrestling match that they want to stop, all they need to do is say so and the other person must stop. I admit in practice it is much more difficult than I expected it would be. My son one night wants hugs and kisses for bedtime, the next night he wants space. I have actually taken to asking him if I may kiss him beforehand each night and that makes it easier on both of us.
    All of this said, extended family don't always understand nor agree with our policy. I am very lucky that my MIL allows the children to come to her on their own terms. However we have had an incident in the past when my husband's step mother picked up my (then) 18 month old son and wouldn't put him down. When he started crying and trying to get away she laughed. It was horrific. Utterly horrific.

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    1. That is one of the most difficult parts to all this. How to deal with relatives? Those who are closest to us are often the ones who are the least receptive to the boundaries we place. Thank you for sharing your experience. Hopefully you have had some luck explaining to your MIL why these rules are important to you.

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  3. I was one of those kids that didn't like to be touched. I still don't. I can't say I've ever hugged anyone other than my husband and kids. Not my parents, not my siblings. I'm not sure why this is, but when hugs start to come out, I quickly leave the room. My parents knew this about me and respected it. How horrible it would have been had one been forced on me, or an adult telling me to hug someone. The priest at my wedding told me to give my dad a kiss before he walked away. I froze. My dad kissed my cheek instead. I can't do it. I won't force my kids to do it. I cringe when anyone tells my kids to hug them. Luckily, only one is like me and people know this about him and he won't be pushed into giving hugs. Thanks for the article.

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    1. And thank you for your comment. I am glad that your parents were so understanding. It has to be hard to have these feelings as a young child and have those feelings respected by adults around you.

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  4. I know this is an older post, but I found (and came to love) your page through pinterest and once I started reading different posts I just couldn't stop. Coming upon this one I thought you were writing about my little curmudgeon who is now a 18 months old. When my 4 year old was born he wanted nothing more than to curl up next to my belly every night, and will still come up to me and stroke my face with his little hand and tell me he loves me dearly. When I became pregnant again I was quickly drawn into thinking this was going to happen once more... yet you can only imagine my heartbreak when she wanted absolutely nothing to do with me. She wouldn't breastfeed, she wouldn't let me hold her, she could only sleep if I put her down in her crib and left her room, she didn't want to be sung to or kissed. It was hard to learn that she needs her own space and that my two children are polar opposites, but that first kiss she doled out herself was well worth the wait.

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    1. Oi! with the breastfeeding! Yes! That was a struggle! She didn't want to be held long enough to feed for any length of time. I did have luck if I laid on my side and let her lay next to me on the bed. If we could manage it with as little contact as possible she would sit still enough to get a belly full, but whoa was it hard.

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