Parenting and Facilitating and understanding of consent
Today, I enjoyed what is one of my favourite experiences, connecting on a deep, playful and joyful level with children. I arrived at my new place of work, a home and a garden, where I will be working and living out my mission for three days a week. As the door opened an 18 month old boy who I have met three times before was there, checking me out again, trying to work out whether he wants to connect or not. I have noticed this often about him and many children, that when you give good clear eye contact, that you can see whether or not they have worked out whether they are ready to have you in their lives in any given moment. In this moment I gave him a warm smile, eye contact and a hello, and I waited to see how he would respond.
Over the next 30 minutes, he dipped in and out of eye contact, moved closer, then further away. Until finally he decided to sit next to me at the table while I was working on my computer. He showed me a picture he had drawn for his dad and started pushing a pencil and paper towards me. I talked to him and asked him whether he wanted me to draw, but in looking at his non-verbal cues this didn’t seem quite right. I tried a few more suggestions but couldn’t quite work it out. In the meantime his sister and I had started talking about what resources we needed in our learning environment and we came on to the subject of face paint. H asked me if she could paint my face, explaining she could do rainbows or cats. I said I would love a rainbow and then she explained, whilst applying various bits of paint careful, what she was doing step by step.
All of this seemed to set a new level of contact between R (18 month old) and I and he decided to sit on my lap and join in some painting of my face (and his) and then final on my jumper, which is what he could reach when he sat back on his chair.
As we cleaned ourselves up a bit, R decided that he was upset that he could not play with the water for longer and threw himself on the floor. I caught him with my feet and said I was going to pick him up and he allowed me to do so and gave me a hug. He then stayed in my arms for a short while until he had finished some crying and then we tidied up the table and I carried on with some work.
Over the last evening and morning, I have been reflecting on relationships, particularly with children, and permission/consent. I read an Aha parenting blog recently about teaching children about consent and their bodies and how this pattern for life starts really early on. I often notice how much children give us such clear and consistent cues about what is ok and what isn’t. Often as parents, grandparents, fellow members of a child’s community, we miss these cues because we are in a rush, stressed out, mindful of too many other things.
Another short anecdote from my own daughter is that she is really clear that she no longer likes being kissed by anyone (which is a fairly normally request or pattern in family and extended family). Whilst I forget sometimes, as it is one of the ways I show affection, we now have a new way of connecting, resolving challenges and restoring contact, which is good quality hugs. What for me makes me feel that she will continue to establish good boundaries as a growing child and adult (something I was never very good at until I did men’s work and even now is still a work in progress) is that she is able to articulate her understanding and needs so clearly and say to me when I forget, “No daddy, remember, no kisses, just cuddles”.
What do you notice in your moment by moment interactions with your children? How do you explore boundaries and consent? What is your favourite experience of inviting someone into your world? Please share any stories.