There was recently an experience with my daughter that made me incredibly uncomfortable. It was something I didn’t believe I would really have to think about yet, which is slightly naïve of me in today’s world.
A friend of mine was visiting with her son and the kids were in the playroom book nook under the stairs, tickling each other on their tummies. Laying down, lifting up their shirts, tickling each other. It just felt like something we shouldn’t be promoting so we distracted them with the idea of playing something else.
Now, they are 3-years-old so this very action was so innocent that it’s fairly ridiculous. My friend even said that we were the ones being weird about the situation. Maybe so, but it made me anxious.
My daughter and I had a few conversations about where people should not be touching you and why you shouldn’t lift up your shirt in public, but they were fly-by-night-type of situations. We chatted about it in the bathroom or when she would lift up her shirt at school to show her friend her “awesome” Paw Patrol underwear.
I didn’t know if our conversations had made an impression. She was with us almost all the time with the exception of pre-school, where they strongly enforce the idea of keeping your hands to yourself. But I knew that at some point, she would need to understand the why behind it all and I figured small, early discussions would be key to that understanding later. I wanted her to know that she and I could talk about these things so that if something did happen that made her uncomfortable, she would come to me.
A few minutes after the tummy tickling had ended we heard my daughter yelling.
“Get off of me!” GET. OFF. OF. ME.”
Each word was enunciated, loud and honest. My friend rushed over there and asked what was going on. I waited and listened. I didn’t want to be “weird.”
“He was trying to lay on top of me,” my daughter said.
With that I promptly walked over there. I was past anxious and had become completely uncomfortable. My friend told her son that he was not being a gentleman and I suggested that it was time to play something else, somewhere else.
That was the end of it that day, but it got me thinking.
I am not being weird about my daughter’s physical touch boundaries. I am her parent. I am the one who teaches her where those boundaries are and the one who will defend her if those boundaries are violated in any way. I need her to know where the line is. I need her to know when it’s crossed. It isn’t another parent’s place to tell me that I’m being weird about establishing those boundaries.
To me, this is where it starts. Maybe she is just 3 and everything is innocent now but if I don’t establish those appropriate lines early, what happens during a situation like this when she is 6 or 9? I don’t have the answer, but I also know I don’t want to find out either. I’d rather that she begin to understand social norms now since does understand the difference between a positive action and a negative one. Helping her to understand where the line is throughout her life is my job as her parent, especially when it comes to physical touch.
I am proud of my daughter for knowing that she was uncomfortable. She did the right thing when her line was crossed. Even if he was just heavy and that’s why she wanted him off, she voiced it loudly and in a way that made the adults take notice. If that’s what being weird about physical touch boundaries with 3-year-olds gets me, then I intend to be one weird parent.
About The Writer
Rachel Quenzer is the owner and main blogger for The Everyday Mom Life where she writes about mom experiences - the good and the bad. Her journey to motherhood did not go as expected and that gives her a unique view on the craziness that comes along with the job. She writes from the middle of a cornfield outside of Chicago where she lives with her kids, computer-nerd husband and faithful dog that loves to give kisses. You can follow along with her on the blog, onFacebook, Twitter @EverydayMomRach or Instagram @theeverydaymomlife.