I have always had the strong sense that my body is mine and no one has the right to make me feel uncomfortable or hurt me in any way. So much so that I was able to clearly ask the creepy man who approached me when I was walking home from school one day, to go away even though I was a painfully shy 15 year old.
I was thinking about this recently as there is a new sign up at The Boy’s nursery about the underwear rule from the NSPCC.
One line jumps out at me, ‘Always remember your body belongs to you.’
A while back I asked my mum how she and my Dad were able to instil such confidence in me as a child without scaring me half to death about the threat that some men pose; the small minority who are violent and want to hurt other people.
I had an idea that you get these convictions from what your parents tell you, information about the facts of life when a curious child, and unflappable suggestions about boys and sex when a flummoxed teenager. I feel fairly confident in giving this information to my son when the time comes, as much as it might embarrass him. But when I spoke to my mum, I realised there was more to it than that.
My mum told me, ‘Every day you have to treat your child as if what they say is important and what they feel does matter. This is the daily grind of parenting. The everyday work of all parents. To make a child feel safe and important. That their feelings – no matter how annoying or irrational – are important.’
So when they ask, ‘Why?’ – for the millionth time that day, or get into a rage because you won’t let them watch another episode of Dinosaur Kings. You have to take it, help them learn to manage their own feelings and get them to see they do know what’s best given time and a chance to learn through making mistakes.
Of course there will be multiple times in a day when you are not able to do this. Because sometimes you have to get things done, get out of the house on time and just not have to work out why a thing is the way it is. This is why parenting is so hard at times because sometimes what children say is quite boring and wrongheaded.
Despite this fact, my mum (with some help from my dad) helped me feel like I am important and what I think does matter. I hope to do the same for my son.
Thanks Mum and Dad
Touched by this, also I think you have always been able to relate to others well, and imagine what they are feeing. This helped you form a strong bond with not only your peer friends but other adults outside the family, teachers, friends’ parents etc. So you were able to look at the world from a safe place where you were loved and valued.
All sounds very sensible to me. A difficult balance to warn your child about potentially hurtful strangers without damaging their natural friendliness and confidence in other adults.