I came into this world as a bundle of joy for mommy and daddy.
I had no presumptions, no expectations or hopes. As a baby I liked being close to mommy and daddy, and I disliked strange aunties and uncles who always wanted to pinch my cheeks and pat me. ‘Oh looks at these cute cheeks!’, and ‘What cute chubby legs!’. And when I wanted nothing more than to nap, they wouldn’t leave my cheeks alone! If I had known how to speak, I would’ve told them to keep their hands off of me. But I didn’t yet know, and so I cried so my mommy/daddy would save me!
So came a time of crawling around and exploring, trying to climb and run around. With visitors I hid myself behind the couch or under the kitchen table (the big table cloth hid me well, or so I thought). Or sometimes I quickly slipped outside (no one would follow me there, not even for my cheeks).
Some guests were nice and I liked them a lot! Especially my uncle Rein who I high-fived many times, and if I wanted, he threw me into air and played with me. If I didn’t feel like it, he never poked at me – what a great uncle!
I also clearly remember some of my daddy’s friends, who came over to fix the car or dropped in for a chat. With their oily and ill-smelling fingers (which I now know were from smoking) they pinched my cheeks and pulled at my braid. Just for fun, they said. It wasn’t fun. My daddy should’ve told them off.
When I was a little bigger and tagged along with my grandma, one thing was for sure. She never let anyone pinch my cheeks, give me a peck or pat on my head. My grandma has always thought children do not need the constant pinching and patting, even by family. She always said ‘the child will come when they want!’ – a very smart granny!
Today I decide who to hug and who can touch me. I don’t go to just any hairdressers’, beauty salon or a doctor – I have chosen these people with care.
And all of the above is only a small part what parents can do to protect their children.
You know how hard it’s for me to watch when a child needs to apologise to another, and then adults say they need to hug and kiss to make up. Why are you punishing the child? Is the apology not enough?
It doesn’t matter if it’s a sister/brother, nursery mates or just children at the local playground. Every child has the right to decide whose hand they hold, who they give their kisses to and who has the right to touch them. And if the child has no mood for even mom’s or dad’s kisses/hugs in the morning, then they must not be forced. This only creates ill feelings in the child, as if they’re in the wrong for not accepting it.
I asked a 2.5-year-old yesterday if I could have a hug? The answer was: ‘You can hug my bunny if you want to!’ Her message was clear and this needs to be respected. A couple hours later she came to me and said: ‘Kadi, I want a hug!’ – and then of course she got all the hugs she asked for.
Even when choosing a stroller, I advise to get one where you can change the direction in which the child sits in. I prefer ones where the child’s facing me, with their back towards the moving direction. Why?
First – this lessens the chance that someone I know or a person in the public transport can pinch the child’s cheeks or touch them in any way.
Second – if the child is holding something or falls asleep, then I can see what’s going on and can make adjustments there and then, or even remove an object from their mouth.
Around 85% of the new parents I’ve spoken to say that they greatly dislike if someone touches their newborn or holds them too early on. They also feel bad when refusing requests to hold the baby, especially grandparents.
I have also written more about kissing babies and toddlers.
I’ve also expressed my opinion about uploading baby pictures to social media.
NB! Photo is illustrative and is from the Internet.
Dear parents, please protect your children. Respect your child’s decision about who they wish to initiate contact with. Your child doesn’t yet know that their body is theirs, but you know!