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Jess always allowed to question me
Growing up in a West Indian home meant being forced to give hugs and kisses to everyone and even as an adult I am made to feel less of a human because I simply do not like having everyone EXPECT to be in my personal space.
I think I refused to give hugs not because I hate hugs but because I have always rebelled against doing anything that was expected of me without proper reasoning and I saw no exception when it came to adults.
This may not have gone down well for me as a child but it is now a behaviour that I teach my daughter even though as a parent it is exhausting and many times frustrating to experience.
Why, then, do I do it? Why do I encourage my eight-year-old to question me and to even defy me when what I tell her doesn’t feel right?
Simple! Because too many children are abused by the very people and system that was put in place to protect them.
I want her to feel comfortable to trust her instincts even when those instincts are telling her that someone she loves isn’t being appropriate.
I want her to learn to say no and not be guilted into doing stuff. As an adult I still struggle to say no. I must consistently work on it because I will run myself thin trying to avoid disappointing people when I say I am simply too busy and simply cannot do it on such short notice.
I want her to learn that she can say no at any time. She can start off saying yes and then change her mind, and as a parent even when it’s tiring, my job is to listen.
When her facial expression says something different to her words, as much as I’d love to ignore it and move along, it’s my job to say “your body language says you’re not okay, what’s up?” Because I want her to know that people speak through more than just words and we should be in tune with all their languages if we really love and respect them.
Even more than that, I want her to know that anyone that loves and respects her will not ignore the gentle push off or the cheek turned sideways.
Recently, I did a parenting course and it amazed me how many of us admitted to having sex because we simply didn’t know how to say no. We dropped hints, we made excuses and we hoped that the guy got it.
Unfortunately, most didn’t and because we did not shout no and pushed them off in our time, it was not considered rape.
Consent was a loose word thrown around and men assumed they had it because we didn’t kick and scream and throw a tantrum.
So now I teach my daughter that those that love us listen to even the non-verbal, very subtle words we do not speak and they respect our opinion on things even when their own differ.
Parenting an open-minded, out spoken, opinionated kid is far from easy, but in a world where doctors can molest children for years upon years while their parents were in the room, don’t we owe it to ourselves and to our children?
Don’t we owe them a fighting chance at standing up for themselves? We owe them the ability to trust their instincts and stand up to anyone that makes them feel uncomfortable—even their authority figures.
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