While I love to indulge in all the typical holiday festivities, and tend to make a celebration out of anything, I draw the line with the Easter bunny. Well not him/her personally… just hear me out.
I have a distinct memory of a neighborhood man visiting on our back patio with my father. I couldn’t have been more than 8 or 9 years old as the sun was setting one weeknight evening. They both enjoyed laughs over cold beers, and before I knew it, I somehow ended up on that man’s lap saying “goodbye.” As I looked around the porch, all of the surrounding adults seemed fine with the situation, which made me even more confused as to why I felt so uncomfortable. The laughs continued and all of a sudden he licked the side of my face. Yes, licked. I froze in fear and waited for someone to do or say something. But nothing was said or done, and I went about my way as did everyone else that night.
Today I often question myself as to whether or not I remember what really happened that night. I wonder if I exaggerated it in my head or if the feelings I felt and the recollection I see is a fabricated one? But then I remember that is what happens when denial sets in, when young children learn to cope and forget and cover up. We learn to see a different picture, and accept a safer one.
I think about what could have been said or done to make the situation better for that 8 year old. What would be different if I walked away knowing that what he did was NOT okay? But all that thinking gets me no where. What I do today instead is make it different for my little ones.
And that’s where the Easter bunny comes in. And the neighbor, or Aunt Sue, cousin who ever, and yes, even Santa. (Gasp!)
It’s so important for me to promote a safe boundary for my child now, so that when they’re older they’ll have the confidence to honor, trust, and respect their bodies and boldly utilize those same boundaries.
Now that does not mean I won’t warrant a “hey stop what you’re doing” and properly give acknowledgement to others with a wave or handshake, and some eye contact. What it does mean, is that it’ll be up to my children to decide the level of physical contact they’d like to exchange that suits THEIR comfort level.
As parents, we place so much emphasis on a “please” and “thank you” and “I’m sorry” and “God bless you,” that we forget the PHYSICAL aspects of growing up. It is weird and overwhelming and challenging to be a child. So to me, teaching my children to understand they are a separate entity from my needs or demands, with a body and voice containing independent thoughts (that they are entitled to and responsible for), is a crucial duty within my parenting wheelhouse.
What it comes down to is that they know they are allowed to stand up for themselves and say “no” at times without worry they are hurting or disappointing mommy/daddy/grandma/uncle whomever.
This also means that they too, are to understand and respect others “no.” From embracing their own boundaries as children, (while having a safe space to voice them), they’ll learn to respect the boundaries of others and bring this value with them into adulthood as women and men.
Yea- my little gremlins may embarrass me or make me look like a neglectful parent who’s enforcing zero manners, or worse; appear that they’re just blatant, wild, spoiled maniacs. But honestly, I DON’T CARE. Because sometimes, they can be ALL of those things. Just hopefully not all at once.
What I care about more at the end of the day is that my child knows when and if they say “no I don’t want to be touched like that,” that momma will BACK THEM UP. I want them to know they are safe, and are heard, and are most definitely allowed and encouraged to have an opinion and place in this world, even standing a measly 3 feet tall.
If and when they’re ready, we may get a picture with Santa or the Easter bunny. But that’ll be up to them to decide. And for now, I’m okay with that.