I’ve observed in a few black moms’ groups an increase in conversations around cultivating body agency in children under 5. Moms have been sharing their discomfort and anger with relatives labeling their kids as “bad” and “disrespectful” when they don’t speak when greeted, or don’t want to be picked up, held, hugged, snuggled, kissed, etc.
These moms would very much appreciate if their kids’ boundaries would be respected, because they see their children as having the same rights as adults in these situations.
As an adult, you wouldn’t want someone getting that close to you without asking permission first, right? You would call out the behavior as inappropriate, right?
So what are we teaching young children about their agency and autonomy when we allow them to be passed around from person to person, visibly uncomfortable and recoiling, even crying?
We are teaching them
*that their bodies don’t belong to them
*to ignore their intuition
*to disconnect from their bodies
*to center someone else’s feelings and pleasure
*that their discomfort doesn’t matter
*to feel guilt and shame
*that they have no rights that adults are obligated to honor or respect
*that it’s not safe to speak up
*that they will have no one to turn to for protection when said touch escalates into abuse
Did you experience this growing up?
If yes, how does this impact your own relationship with your body and with intimate partners?
How did this show up during your pregnancy and labor?