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I am a wife, mother,grandmother, aunt, dog and cat owner, professional buyer, reader, movie lover. I love reading blogs and now I am writing one.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hugs: optional

There were three things I saw on CNN today that sparked my interest.  I had a hard time choosing THE one.  I picked this CNN Article for today because it fit in the theme of my last post.  I have been thinking a lot about the helicopter parent verses the free-range patent.  I am certain that I fell somewhere in between.  AND remember I parented without the Internet :).  It is my opinion, that the Internet increased our fears by a factor of a million.  The Internet and 24-hour new saturation. 

The headline "I don't own my child's body" intrigued me.  I had no idea what to expect.  In short, the article centers on parents allowing their children to decide if they want to hug grandma or Auntie Cindy.  The author, Katia Hetter, believes kids should make that choice.
My favorite part of the article is this statement. 

"No, she doesn't have to. And just to be clear, there is no passive-aggressive, conditional, manipulative nonsense behind my statement. I mean what I say. She doesn't have to hug or kiss anyone just because I say so, not even me. I will not override my own child's currently strong instincts to back off from touching someone who she chooses not to touch."

That comment reminded me of Gavin de Becker's book The Gift of Fear.  Gavin's mission is to empower people to believe that true fear is a gift, unwanted fear is a curse and we should all learn how to tell the difference.  I will never forget when I saw Gavin on Oprah for the first time.  He said something that I will never forget. 

"We are the only creatures that sense danger and walk right into it."

Gavin says that we persuade ourselves to override our instinct because we do not want to appear rude.  This issue is especially chronic among woman.   By allowing her child to control who she does or does not kiss and hug, Katia is training her child to listen to her instinct. As she grows, she will learn to trust that little voice that tells her danger is near.  Of course, it is unlikely that grandma poses any threat to her granddaughter.  But the lesson this parenting technique is teaching may one day save her grandchild's life. 
Katia believes, and I agree, that this will also strengthen her child's self-esteem in other areas; including empowering her to own her sexuality. 

Make no mistake, Katie expects her child to remain respectful and polite.   That is not negotiable.
My mother did not opt for this parenting option.  Hugs were required.  Usually, I didn't mind.  However, my brother was consistently my exception.  Big Mike was 20-years older than me.  His nickname, Big Mike, was not a misnomer.  He was 6' 4", 400 pounds with long black hair and a big black beard.  Think, Hagrid. 
Big Mike was a long haul truck driver.  When he was in the area he would stop by.  He and my parents would sit at the table and talk while drinking gallons of coffee.  I would sit off in the corner, reading or playing.  

When it was time for Big Mike to leave, I was required to hug him.  I did not want to.  I resisted.  Think, BORG.  My brother was a wonderful person.  He never hurt anyone.  He never hurt me.  I don't know why I hated hugging him. Likely, it was that he was so very big and I was so very small.  But, my mother, unwittingly, sent me a message.  I didn't own my body.  It stunted my self-esteem.  Perhaps, it perpetuated my disastrous choice for a first husband (a long story for another day).

I propose that rather than worry every day about the possibility that our child may be kidnapped, perhaps we should worry more about equipping them with the tools to protect them throughout their entire lives.  

Tomorrow.....middle school kids bully an adult?  I am NOT kidding.

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