Recently, our gang took a trip to the always exciting State Fair of Texas. We ate our weight in corn dogs (I’m looking At you Fletcher’s!) and enjoyed over-priced games and rides galore.
I don’t usually love going places where I know crowds of people will be bumping into me at every turn because HELLO ANXIETY — but once a year I make an exception. This year though our experience left me feeling uneasy and honestly pretty irritated.
When did it become socially appropriate to physically greet a stranger’s child? Did I miss the memo that personal space only applies to those of us over 18?
We were standing in line for what was seemed like our 15th corn dog of the night when a woman came up to my son to tell him how cute he was. I stood next to him and smiled as she proceeded to rub his head. Without asking she then took his toy sword from him and started playfully jabbing his arm. He looked extremely uncomfortable at this point and I kindly asked her for his toy back so we could go about our night.
We started towards the car display and I was approached by another woman who stopped me and asked how old my daughter was. She then did something that made me cringe like I have never cringed before. She rubbed her hands together to warm them and started to caress my daughters cheek with her finger. My inside was screaming “Get your hands off my baby!” but my outside was awkwardly smiling and thinking of any excuse to quickly pull away.
I get it. Babies are cute! You want to touch my 3 month old’s face. She’s so squishy and new. You want to pat my three year old’s head. He’s got that sweet smile that just melts you!
Besides the fact that I have no idea when the last time you washed your hands was, children deserve the same respectful boundaries that you would offer any adult.
Kids are typically not as forward with their discomfort in these situations and it is our job as parents to make sure they grow up confident and are able to give and receive social cues. Whether it is from a stranger or a close relative they should know that it is okay to refuse any physical contact from a high five to a hug. As innocent as it may seem, forcing a child to do something that makes them uncomfortable is conflicting with the idea that they should listen and trust their inner voice.
When something doesn’t feel right as an adult we have the ability to choose and say no. All people young and old deserve that same right.
Now I am not saying your child should never hug grandma and grandpa but you know your little better than anyone. If they constantly hesitate and seem uncomfortable before that goodbye kiss maybe suggest a more suitable alternative for the time being. I can’t tell you how many times a stranger has patted my son on the back and each time he has the same look of concern on his face.
Empower your children with the knowledge that saying no isn’t always a bad thing. They are in control of their own body and this will teach them to respect theirs and others personal space.