Here’s a thing about me: sometimes I feel like I offend people because I don’t want to hold or hug or kiss their kids – babies, toddlers, all of it.
I can remember being a kid myself and watching any one of my younger cousins go from neutral baby mode to purple-faced hysterics when one of their parents handed them off to someone relatively unfamiliar (read: someone the child didn’t interact with daily). The parent would inevitably minimize the reaction and take the kid back, but only after it was made visibly uncomfortable and the unwittingly offensive holder had attempted some sort of forced soothing. I’ve since seen this happen lots more times with all sorts of other sample kids.
I’m not a parent, but I always kinda figured that kids had these little minds and psyches and things. And, being creatures with minds and psyches and things, I would expect kids to have comforts and discomforts, preferences and not, etc. I know I had them when I was little. I also know that I don’t like strange or unfamiliar people touching me, never have.
When I meet a new baby, the closest I get is maybe tickling their little hand hello. Or, if I’m saying goodbye and the baby seems ok with it (how the hell would I know this?), maybe I will kiss my hand and gently place the kiss on the top of their head. And if it’s a free-standing kid, like three years old or greater, a friendly high-five or a mini fist bump is all that’s necessary in my opinion.
And sometimes I get pressured – or the kid gets pressured! – to do more. Give a hug! Kiss her cheek! Ehhh… no.
I think parents may also experience a measure of distress in these situations via some sort of social propriety norm strain that compels them to have polite, accessible children. Like it reflects negatively on them in some way if their kid doesn’t want to be snuggled up next to you? Consequently, when a person like me is all: “I’ll just wave from over here, and if they like me maybe I’ll share my apple slices in a few minutes,” perhaps their feelings are hurt or they feel insulted?
When I don’t want to get up in some young human’s space, it’s because I truly feel kids generally would prefer it that way – and I mean from most people, not just me. And I’ve never had a kid complain about this.
So when I recently read “Why I Will Never Tell My Daughter to Give You a Hug” by Vanessa McGrady, I was quite pleased. The piece is interesting in of itself, but the thing I found most compelling was Vanessa’s commitment to not forcing her child to be uncomfortable, perhaps for the sake of others’ socially constructed ideals, perhaps including her own.
(pictured: this stock shot baby is crying just at the thought of you holding it)
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