Thursday, September 16, 2010

Our Bodies, Ourselves

Our Bodies, Ourselves: A Book by and for Women (Touchstone Books)

One day when my oldest son was about three years old, we went to visit his grandparents. They were really excited to see him, but he wasn't in the best of moods at the time. Maybe he was sleepy; maybe he was hungry. I don't remember. I do remember, though, that his grandmother wanted to give him a hug. Khalil wasn't having that. Usually, he would run to her and jump into her arms. They would plant kisses all over each other's faces and giggle, but not that day. Disappointed, my mother-in-law said to me, "Shawnie, make him give me a hug."

My response? "He doesn't have to hug you if he doesn't want to."

I could tell by her expression that her feelings were hurt. My response probably could have been a lot nicer. I should have taken her feelings into consideration. I wish I had. But the sentiment would have been the same.

From the time my son was born, I decided that I would let him know that it is okay to say no to adults. I wanted to empower him so that some ill-meaning person would be less likely to take advantage of him. Many times children who are sexually abused don't realize that they can say no. They think they have to do what the predator says because he/she is an adult. That's what I thought when I was a child being abused. I thought, "If I don't do what he says, I'll be in trouble." I thought, "My mother told me to do what the babysitter tells me to do." I thought, "This doesn't feel right, but I can't disobey my aunt."

Children have to know that sometimes, disobeying is the right thing to do. They can't know that unless we teach them. They won't know unless we teach them. Teach them that their bodies belong to them. Nobody has a right to touch them for any reason without their consent. Did I say nobody? Because I mean absolutely nobody: not mommy, not daddy, not teacher, not coach, not sister, not brother, not pastor. Nobody. My daughter was four years old when I had to verbally instruct her on the proper way to clean her private areas because she decided that she no longer wanted me to do it. She was able to decide because she knew it was her choice.

Teach them to trust their instincts. You'll hear me say this often: intuition is the voice of God. When you have a bad feeling about something, that's God whispering, and sometimes screaming, in your ear, "This is not right!" Don't ignore God's voice. He only speaks when there is something important to say.

Teach them to tattle. I know that we've been taught not to tattle-tale. We've been urged to stop snitching. I think that's ridiculous and if I offend anyone on this point, I don't really care. If a child thinks he'll be ostracized for "snitching" on someone who has hurt him, he won't tell anyone. And he will continue to be hurt. Can you imagine how you would feel if you discovered that your child was in pain and avoided telling you because he thought you'd be angry at him for tattling?

We try our best to protect our children, but we cannot always be there. So for the times when you're not around, arm them with  knowledge. Arm them with empowerment!

Until next week,

Feed on love, subsist on peace.

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