Helping your baby claim ownership of their own body

Thursday, 23 July 2015

I'll admit, I'm physically awkward socially.  I cringe at the thought of being randomly touched and the frayed ribbons of anxiety tangle and not at the prospect of obligatory physical contact, regardless of who it is.  In fact the only people I willingly touch and allow to willingly touch me are The Spawn.
Generally speaking, unless you're tipsy or deliciously high, you wouldn't randomly approach someone and physically touch them.  It's just not the done thing, to break through someone's personal space uninvited.  It wouldn't be very British.

So why do so many strangers feel it's acceptable to reach out and touch a baby, uninvited.  Think about it, they're basically taking advantage of a vulnerable human's inability to verbally consent or physically withdraw.  Strangers in the street randomly touching my baby's face or leg just because she's a baby and adorable.

How is that okay?  Why is that okay?

Why do so many grownups feel entitled to physical affection from children, to an extent where it is demanded or expected of them?

'Give grandma a kiss!'

'Give your Uncle a cuddle'

They're not questions, they're veiled demands that are teaching our children that they have no rights over their body and who gets to touch it and when.

They're not asked.  They're not given a choice.

But it's only a hug.  It's only a kiss.  They're only being plonked on  a knee.

They're only humans people babies.

It gets even better, many well meaning people then have the audacity to act offended should the baby become distressed.

It's not about you.

It doesn't mean they don't like you.

Sometimes people don't feel like being touched.

Physical signs of affection should be willingly given not taken nor demanded.  They're a gift not a chore nor obligation.

Don't put your insecurities onto a baby or child.

Sometimes a baby or child only wants a particular person to hold or comfort them.  If you're not that person, it doesn't mean they don't like you. It doesn't mean they don't love you.  There's two common scenarios here, the first is you pick up baby and baby cries.  Believe it or not baby doesn't hate you nor are they trying to offend you.  They're just letting you know in the only way they can that they'd rather you didn't hold them right now.  Maybe they're tired or just woken up and disorientated and they want to recentre their place in the universe either with Mum or Dad or maybe they just want to be left alone!

The second scenario is the, ever so competitive, calm the baby race.  Baby is happily playing one minute then you know, they face plant or the wind changes and suddenly it's like the world ending.  Now as Mum or Dad you know the only place they want to be is in your arms.  Before you can get there a well meaning relative swoops in and tries to prove that they too have the power to settle baby.  Baby looks through their tears at Mum, Mum looks at baby.  Baby cries even harder as someone else scoops them up.  Do you risk your baby being upset to save offending the grownup or do you take baby from them to settle?  Me?  I literally give the relative 3 minutes grace to try and settle them before I hold my arms  out and reclaim my baby who usually then stops crying within seconds.   Just because baby wants Mum, doesn't mean they don't like you.  Of course they want Mum, Mum is their home, their universe.  Mum makes everything better.  I will not stand by and watch my baby become increasingly distressed just to make another grownup feel better.

You may love your brother but if you were about to go into labour and your husband was also in the room, you'd probably rather your husband be with you, it doesn't mean you don't love your brother.

Babies are people too, with preferences and feelings of their own, they don't exist to pander to your own insecurities and desire for emotional validation.  Don't assume you have a right to hold/touch/ them or that they will always like it.

Learn to listen to their 'no' as a baby so they grow up knowing they are in control of when, who and if someone can touch them.

1 comment:

  1. Being a hugger I have to keep reminding myself that my son's body is his own with his right to do as he wishes. He gets lots of kisses when he's asleep though :)


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