Sunday, March 1, 2015

Please Ask Permission

Back when my child was still at the age where he had a great deal of access to my body, when he felt like it he would simply reach out and touch and/or hold my breasts. For a time this was obvious, natural, and welcome. Then for a time it was just fine. Finally came a time when it was not fine anymore, especially in public.

I called a meeting of my motherhood-cabinet—my wise friend Alisa. We discussed the issue: it’s time for me to teach him that he cannot grab my breasts at will. But I don’t want to tell him “he’s not allowed.” Because he is still allowed to touch me, and I want him to feel allowed in the future. Allowed, but not entitled. We laughed a lot, especially while imagining his future relationships which felt impossibly far away, talked about it, and she helped me hatched a plan.

The next time my son grabbed my breast, I took his hand, gently moved it away from me, and told him: “You may touch my breast, but only if it’s ok with me. You need to ask for my permission first.” My son looked at me, and reached again to touch my breast. Again, I took has hand, moved it away, and said “My breasts are private. You may touch them, but only if it’s also ok with me. You need to ask people first before you touch their bodies.” My son went back to play, life moved forward, and I forgot.

A few weeks later, we were waiting in the crowded Saturday morning Wegman’s checkout line. From his seat in the grocery cart, my son asked me in his clear voice that seemed to cut through the entire busy grocery store: “Mommy! May I please touch your breasts!?”

Moral of the story: Think through your entire plan, not just the first part.