I was browsing old blog posts (child 1 is away this weekend and child 2 is constantly either eating or sleeping… I suddenly have a lot of time on my hands) – and I read about a time when a family member had yelled at Avery (as a 2 year old) for touching something they thought she wasn’t supposed to touch. Turned out it was just one of her toys, and she was scared and upset by the interaction, but the adult did not apologize. They just ignored and moved on from the situation. I didn’t say anything. I felt like I had missed an opportunity to model standing up for oneself.
A couple of weeks ago, family was visiting in the backyard and Avery had been in and out of the pool, and was just spending the day in her bathing suit. A family member was playfully picking her up and threatening to toss her in the pool. Avery would shout “no!” and they’d put her down. She seemed OK with this game. Then, on one of the playful tosses, while she was shouting “no!” they actually threw her in. She sputtered to the surface and I could see that she was already crying as she swam to the edge. I ran to her, picked her up, and gave her a full body hug.
Now, I don’t normally coddle my kid when she has a minor scare, like falling off her bike. I tend to go to her calmly and check that she’s ok, asking if she is hurt or if it was just scary. She almost always assesses the situation and realizes that she was just startled and that she’s actually OK. So when I gave her this reaction to being thrown in the pool, everyone looked at me in a judgey way, and tried to belittle my reaction by telling Avery she was fine, it was all in good fun.
I spoke up LOUDLY – I told the family member who had thrown her (and everyone else who was there) that no means no. When someone tells you not to do something to their body, you listen. I told them all that Avery had a right to be upset about what had happened.
The family member seemed a little embarrassed. Good. It’s fair to be embarrassed when you’re learning that you’ve done something wrong. It’s ok to sit with that.
Later that night Avery told me that she wasn’t upset because she was hurt or scared, but because she trusted the person. I told her that we taught him his actions were not ok and that he wouldn’t do that again, and that I was sorry she had to have her trust broken in order to teach a grown-up that no means no.
I’m proud of how I handled the situation. No more passive mom in the background afraid to offend a family member… I’m teaching my daughter to be strong and stand up for herself, and to know that she deserves to be respected and listened to.