Wednesday, April 13, 2005

When Hugs and Kisses are Icky

When my sister’s second son was born, I enjoyed him a lot. Lou was one of those sweet babes that loved human contact. As soon as you picked him up he would nestle in to a really comfy spot and be happy about being there. He was one big lovey ball of sweet baby-fat.

By the time he was a toddler, however, his personality had changed. He’d become shy around people he didn’t see very often. Since I was working a lot at the time, I only saw the boys about once every 3 or 4 months. It wasn’t enough to develop and maintain a trusting rapport with the little guy.

Lou’s shyness around me embarrassed my sister. She’d try to coax him to approach me, and she’d practically bribe him to give me hugs and kisses. That part troubled me. Every single time she did that I’d look at Lou and say, "You don’t have to hug & kiss me unless you want to. You never have to hug or kiss anyone that you don’t want to." He seemed relieved to be off the hook. However, even when I was direct, my sister never seemed to catch on.

When Lou was three and a half years old, my other sister got married. My family, including my niece and all my nephews were there, along with dozens of aunts, uncles, cousins and family friends. During the 3-day event, every time I saw Lou I greeted him warmly, but I always took my cue from him about physical contact. For most of the weekend his message seemed clear as he peered at me from behind his mother's legs.

Finally, on the morning of the third day, all my patience finally paid off. As I was helping to set up for brunch, I was body slammed from the side. Two little pudgy arms wrapped around my knees and Lou’s sweet face looked up at me. He shouted "Auntie T, You’re the Best One!" For the rest of that day, and many other visits thereafter, that was the greeting I received from Lou. I liked it. I never figured out exactly what he meant by The Best One, but I liked it anyway.

I have very strong opinions about how children should be treated. One of the things that bugs the shit out of me is when people make their kids hug and kiss other adults, especially when it’s clear that the kid’s not interested in doing so. It sends a message to children that they must comply with adults about showing affection. They learn that in order to please adults, they have to give up control of their bodies. In a world where there are menacing predators hunting for children, it’s downright dangerous.

Sexual predators look for children who are compliant and want to please adults. It’s impossible to know who a sexual predator might be. More often than not they are a trusted relative or friend. They’re very rarely creepy looking devils prowling neighborhoods in vans with skulls & crossbones painted on the side. In order for a sexual predator to be successful, he (she) has to be charming and gain the trust of the victim. He (she) has to look like an ordinary likeable guy.

I don’t have children of my own, but I’ve cared for a lot of other people’s children. For six years I operated a program for runaway and homeless youth. Almost 80% of the kids that participated in that program had been sexually abused before I met them. Although I couldn’t undo the hurt that had already been done to them, I did my best to create a safe place once they got there.

We can’t raise children in a bubble, but we can teach them to respect themselves and others. We need to teach every child that they own their body. They need to learn that sometimes it's okay to say "No" to a grown-up. All of us, including children, need to know that we don’t have to show affection unless we feel affectionate.

Hugs and kisses are supposed to make us happy.


At 1:25 AM, Blogger Sue said...


All I can say is Hear Hear!!!!

Why should we give mixed messages to our children. Why force them to hug and kiss someone that they don't want to just because we as parents want them too?

Our children have been brought up in a house where kisses and cuddles are freely given, both between parents and children and parent to parent. They have never been forced (or asked) to have
physical contact with anyone they don't want too... I only remember one incident where Son was reticent with my sister and I never forced it. He is now a strapping nearly 16 year old, and I am delighted that he is still free with his kisses and cuddles (to me anyway) - and I treasure each one as a gift when they come so freely given. Daughter is also the same.

I congratulate you Theresa for having such insight into the way a child's psyche ticks and heartily endorse all that you have written in this post.

At 1:55 AM, Anonymous Dick said...

E-mail? what's e-mail?

At 2:03 AM, Anonymous Dick said...

You're right on the money there. It's sucks that sexual pred. are teachers, priests, and other people we are supposed to trust. For a few years I was a volunteer for kids at a camp and I was always afraid to be alone with a child. It sucks that we have to live like that, because of other fucking assholes. God I hate those bastards. I really believe we should have a mobile electric chair, when we catch someone in the act, drive the truck up and strap the fuckers in.
Wow, sorry got carried away there.

At 2:40 AM, Blogger theresa said...

Sue - Anyone who knows about your loving home, knows that your kids have the world's best role-models for a relationship built on love and respect. That means everything! Thanks so much for your comment.

Dick - People who hold positions of trust in our communities betray all of us when they commit such horrific crimes on our most innocent members. You have a right to be angry. We all do.

Men do have to take extra precautions when working with kids. It's not fair for caring men who are safe for children to be around. It's not fair for the children who have a right to have such men involved in their lives.

Don't worry about getting carried away. You're not saying anything very different than some of my favorite vengeful fantasies. Sometimes it helps to imagine what you'd like to do. One time I helped a friend draw a picture of her perp and then we started it on fire.

At 11:03 AM, Blogger Chick said...

Well put, ARE the best one.

I’ll wait all day for the children who love me to come to me for hugs & silly kisses...

At 12:27 PM, Blogger Queen Of Pink said...

One of my biggest pet peeves. Ever. Go give so & so a kiss. Nuh uh. You wouldn't do that to your husband or sister. Don't do it to your kids.

My kids know that they NEVER EVER FUCKING EVER have to kiss or hug someone they don't want to. Ok, I lied. They have to hug their sister when they fight. But that is my own little form of torture. Keeps them from gouging the other's eyeballs out. Uh-huh, I'm a GOOD mom.

Theresa, you rock my world. I'm grateful for you! Now where's my pink riding crop? ;)

At 12:30 PM, Blogger Tommy said...

In Texas we have a really neat law "IMPROPER RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN EDUCATOR AND STUDENT" that is a second degree felony. This law should extend to the clergy and othere who are in a "position of trust" and it probably will be expanded upon.
Dick- I understand exactly where are coming from as far as working with kids. Its a very difficult job and the pressure can really build on you.
I think that the person should just be put down like we do wild pigs or dogs. One shot, one kill, next! I hate those who prey upon the innocent children and the elderly alike.

At 3:51 PM, Blogger Muffin said...

I think your approach was perfect.


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