A dash of Pepper…

…with a splash of Mint

Archive for January 12th, 2021

No means no

Posted by Pepper on January 12, 2021

On average, Mint and I find ourselves repeating that statement at least 20 times a day. Explaining boundaries, especially physical boundaries is hard when it comes to toddlers. Now put toddler twins and that task becomes a lot harder. Because we are talking about two little people who are exactly the same age and have the same level of understanding and maturity. No one is better than the other.

We live in such an awfully sexist world, we feel a higher sense of responsibility to raise our son to be respectful, sensitive and well, just somebody who doesn’t cave in to gender stereotypes. If you know Cotton in person, you will know about his reputation of being one of the sweetest kids on the block. Honestly, he’s a darling. But I still worry, because the default setting of the world turns men into entitled and sexist jerks. You have to work really hard to tune out of the default setting designed for your gender.

Candy, on the other hand, is a brat. She is fierce, loud and defiant. She is also not as sensitive as Cotton. In fact, she is my rowdy kid. But again, I wonder. How long will she continue to be such a dynamite little girl? The default setting of the world turns women into fearful, subservient beings. And it takes a little extra work to raise a bold, fearless girl.

Anyway, I digress as usual. I was talking about setting physical boundaries. Cotton came crying to me with tears in his eyes. He said Candy wasn’t letting him hug her. He had accidentally hurt her foot and was feeling guilty. He told me he said sorry to her but he also wanted to hug her. I told you, he is a darling child.

But Candy made it very clear that she did not want to be hugged. I told Cotton to respect that. If she doesn’t want to be hugged, he can’t keep asking her for one or forcefully give her one. No means no, remember? I went over this concept for the nth time. If someone does not want to be touched, you can’t touch them. Not even your sister. Not even if you have the best intentions. There are no two ways about this. No means no. Period.

He, as usual, was struggling to grasp this. He told me he lets Candy sit on his back whenever she pleases. That is true. She practically rides him. And he lets her. Fair point. I told him he could tell her he doesn’t want to indulge her. He can say no too. And she has to respect that.

A common scene around here. Please ignore Candy’s very stained sleeves.

But he said he has no problem when she does that. Then why should she have a problem when he takes similar liberties. Okay, I told him that sometimes he may be okay being touched by someone. That does not translate to that person being okay with being touched by him. Always ask first. Consent is very important. Of course, I do try to balance our view points by asking Candy why she thinks it is reasonable to expect certain privileges when she isn’t willing to return them. This is all about such a fine balance.

Consent is something Mint and I try to model to them. We ask them first if we can kiss them. Even if we don’t, we stop the moment we see the slightest sign of protest or discomfort.┬áNo means no is a statement we explain and repeat so many times. The rules apply to us too.

Of course, they still don’t get it. We once heard Candy telling Cotton, “No, I don’t want to share this with you. No means no”. We told her that is not how this works. And we explained again the concept of consent. From our part, we make sure there is a lot of dialogue and conversation about this subject. And even though they don’t get it in its entirety now, someday I hope they will.

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