For nearly a month I have been mulling over this word. We recently went to a lovely family wedding which entailed our first long car journey and hotel stay. The whole weekend went so well until about 20minutes before we were due to leave for the ceremony and in truest of true toddler styles the girls point blank refused to put their dresses on. They 100% dug in their heels and with tear streaked faces refused to let us put their dresses on. We had nothing else suitable for them to wear, we had no time to get them anything plus I had uncharacteristically spent a small fortune on their outfits. Now me and Marcus are usually pretty cool, we adapt, we go with the flow etc but we could be said to have freaked out a bit at the thought of time ticking past with images of us hurriedly slipping into our seats at the venue after following the bride down the aisle. We decided we would abandon the attempt in the hotel room and take them to the car in their vests and tights to see if this would serve as distraction enough for us to get them into their dresses just before getting into the car, it was not and the girls were getting beside themselves. We were running out of time and I’m ashamed to say we just told them that they had to have their dresses on that was that and (obviously without hurting them) shoved them in their dresses amid protests and tears. To be honest it made me feel sick.
Now you may think ‘so what you put dresses on them they didn’t want to wear’ ‘so what a kid was made to do something they didn’t want to do, that happens all the time, its no big deal.’ but if you break it down it is big deal. This is where it begins, this is the thin end of the wedge, this is where kids, boys and girls learn that its acceptable for someone to do something to you that you don’t want them to do. This is where powerlessness begins.
So much has been highlighted recently about woman being forced into situations they should never be put in, I’m thinking the Harvey Weinstein scandal, the Times Up Campaign and the very real and very scary amount of #metoo’s that were shared on my social media pages from my friends let alone the wider populace. With this in mind consent should be taught from day one. Borrowed from a blogger I follow is the phrase that is now often banded around our house ‘my body, my choice’ ‘her body, her choice’. I want the girls to know that they have the right to say loud and clear, NO! I want them to know that if someone is doing something that is making them feel uncomfortable that they do not have to put up with it and accept it just because that person is an authority figure, or a friend or a family member or a colleague, I want them to know that it is ok to kick the hell out of someone if they try to put their hands or anything else for that matter near you if you don’t want them to.
So consent and body autonomy starts with the little things, it starts with giving your children the right to say no to you, it starts with treating your children like their feelings and their rights matter because they damn right do matter. It’s about teaching you kids that they have a voice and it is not only ok but important that they use it.
Clearly as the above story illistrates, I do not always get this right but I try and I will keep trying to respect my daughters rights and feelings. I will try with the little things so that when it comes to the big things I will hear what they have to say.