It started at daycare last year.
The other mom thought that it was cute. I thought it was not, and had they been in high school, and not just four years old, I would have called it assault.
The story, as I was told, was that two little boys, both good friends with each other, had decided they wanted to hug and kiss my daughter. My daughter did not want them to, but they tried to anyway and kept trying until the teachers had to tell them to stop and leave her alone.
That night I had a long (well, long for a four-year-old) conversation with my daughter about how she has the right to say NO. If someone, anyone, is ever trying to hug her, kiss her, touch her, anything and she doesn’t want them to, she can ask them politely to stop. She can say, “no,” loudly if they don’t listen. She can run away from them. She can go find a trusted adult or friend to help her if they still won’t stop. And most importantly, she can always come and talk to me and her dad about it and we will always believe her and we will always help her no matter what.
We talked about how she doesn’t have to let anyone hug her or kiss her for them to be her friend. She doesn’t even have to hug or kiss someone just because they are her family. It’s okay if she doesn’t feel like it. It’s okay. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t like them, doesn’t love them, or doesn’t want to be their friend. She just might not want to be touched right then. And that is okay.
Again, at four, I would like to think that these “friends” were fairly innocent. At fourteen, I would have called it assault.
But this is where it begins.
This year she started kindergarten. It’s a whole new world filled with lots of big scary things, and I am continuing to remind her that she is in charge of herself.
With the #metoo movement at the forefront of many of our minds over the last couple of years, I’ve thought a lot about what it means to be raising a daughter in this #metook12 era–knowing that it is nearly inevitable that she will at some point in her life have to, at the very least, ignore the inappropriate comments of boys who think that just because she is a pretty girl, she is something they can objectify.
This is why we start now. She may only be five, but I want her to know, even now, that she is the one that is in charge of her own body. She gets to be in control of what happens to it. I mean, I do still force her to let me buckle her in the car seat despite her sometimes great protests, and brushing her teeth is still a requirement–even if she’s just soooooo tired. But she knows that if she doesn’t want to be tickled, she can say stop. If she doesn’t want to give out hugs, that’s okay. And if someone is trying to touch her she knows to say, “please stop!”
Teaching her to set her own boundaries now–and to know that she can speak up and use her voice when it’s something as simple as not wanting to give a goodbye hug–is hopefully laying the groundwork for knowing that she is strong and that her no means no when it really counts later on down the road.