Tag Archive | Children

Why I Won’t Make My Children Give Hugs or Kisses to ANYONE if They Don’t Want to

It’s seems so normal and innocent to tell our kids, “Now give grandma a kiss and hug for coming to your birthday party”, or “Hug your uncle to thank him for that gift!”, and then proceed to push them or maybe even force them to hugging or giving a kiss to whoever it might be. It never came to my mind before that forcing kids to show intimacy as a thank you or as a sign of respect or love (or for whatever other reasons we have) to other people is wrong until I read an article about it years ago.

In our minds we think family members or maybe even close friends have the right to be shown intimacies like hugs and kisses from our children. “Why won’t you hug your grandma? That’s not very nice!”. Do we want to shame our kids into showing intimacy? Because if we punish them or demean them for this personal choice we are taking away their right to consent. We are teaching them that they don’t have power over their bodies and that decisions about their bodies and intimacy are not their own. It seems crazy to think about this, especially if you are hearing this view of these circumstances for the first time, but the truth is NOBODY has the right or privilege to force our children to show them intimacy if the child is uncomfortable with it. Not even grandma. Not even mom or dad!

This is a separate issue from discipline and misbehavior. A child making a decision about other people touching, kissing, or hugging them is not a behavioral issue, it is a human rights issue. I am trying to say that a when a child is exercising her or his right to consent that it should not be deemed as a misbehavior and that if the child refuses to give or receive intimacy it should not be an offense, it should not be punishable, and it should not be looked down on.

I know I grew up feeling and thinking that grandparents deserved hugs and kisses, and even though I had no problem with showing my grandparents love in this way (at least not that I can remember), I still also remember feeling that I didn’t have a choice even if I didn’t want to hug and kiss them, and that it was expected from me. I’m not complaining, and I personally love giving affection to family and friends, (even other people I don’t know as well if they need a hug or a friendly pat on the back and if i know that both myself and the person are comfortable with that). I am just realizing what I want my children to learn more than anything and what I want them to use their whole lives: Their personal power and their rights as humans, most especially the right to consent and the right to feel however they want without other people negatively effecting their choices and emotions.

If you really love somebody and respect them than you wouldn’t force them to do things they are uncomfortable with or that they just don’t feel like doing. We can ask our children instead to just say “thank you” or to use some other verbal consideration appropriate to the situation, because really, that should be enough.

I don’t want to teach my children that to show love or respect to someone that they have to do things they don’t really want to do. The weird thing is that you see these types of situations everywhere, even in movies and TV shows. There will be a “funny” part in a movie where a young boy is dreading a kiss from his old smelly aunt or some other family member, and then is totally grossed out after they are forced or shamed into giving or receiving the dreaded hugs or kisses.

For example: It shouldn’t be considered rude to decline receiving a hug or kiss from your aunt Mildred, it should be considered rude for your aunt Mildred to expect or demand it from you no matter how you are feeling about it.

Every child is different, and you can’t say whether or not the child will learn the different social aspects of consent and the variables of sexual situations versus what our society thinks as normal “family or close friend” social interactions. You can’t say whether or not a child will internalize the idea that consent is not their own or anyone else’s and whether or not they will respect the words “no” or “stop” if they hear it from another person. It is completely possible that they might learn to feel uncomfortable verbalizing or become unable to verbally express their feelings concerning their personal consent and that they may find it harder to say “no” or “stop” to others. It is possible that the child will grow to completely understand when and where consent needs to be given and that they won’t have any issues with saying or hearing the word “no”.

It is also completely possible that we are setting up hurtful and damaging situations as extreme as rape and/or molestation. the reason this may be happening is because many of us might not be teaching our children from a very young age that only they have power over their own bodies, that only they can give consent to people touching, kissing, or hugging them, that they can not expect anything physical from others without having that person’s consent, and that the same goes for EVERY human being in ANY circumstance.

We have to show children that they are respected and loved starting with these seemingly small steps (not making them hug grandma or making them feel bad that they didn’t hug grandma for example), because ultimately they can make a big difference in our children’s lives and in our society as a whole. Children are people who have rights and feelings that need to be respected in all circumstances. It is our job to not only discipline our children and teach them right from wrong, but to empower them as people, and to help them flourish and thrive in order to live happy lives. One of the best ways we can do that is by teaching them the personal power and human right of consent.

Why Children Should Witness Breastfeeding in Public ~ Nursing Freedom

http://www.nursingfreedom.org/2010/08/why-children-should-witness.html

A child’s life is made up of moments. Children learn by observing and interacting with their world, and every moment adds up to form the basis for the values, beliefs, habits, and memories which will carry them into adulthood. This seems obvious, but what does it have to do with breastfeeding?

Well, what happens if children never witnesses breastfeeding? What if they spend their entire childhood seeing only bottle feeding, both in the media and among the people they interact with? What if a young girl or boy grows up surrounded by sexualized images of breasts but never, or only rarely, witnesses the normal, natural act of breastfeeding a baby? There are some fortunate children who witness their mother breastfeeding a younger sibling, but one look at the breastfeeding rates in the US today will tell you that they are likely not seeing the nursing relationship last for very long.

I am fortunate. My own experience with nursing in public has been wonderful, despite having never seen a woman breastfeed up close and in person until pregnant and attending an LLL meeting. My husband is supportive, I don’t work outside the home, and I have never been directly criticized or asked to cover up. My son is almost 18 months and still nurses quite frequently – some days more than when he was an infant! I nurse him in public anywhere and everywhere he wants to. I’ve noticed that as he’s growing older and finding his independence, he needs to come back to me when overwhelmed with his environment, to calm and center himself by nursing. This means that some days he tends to nurse in public more than he does at home. I can’t imagine what life would be like if I was uncomfortable with nursing in public. We have nursed at a wedding, a funeral, a graduation, birthday parties, on airplanes, trains, buses, subways, parks, playgrounds, museums, cafes, restaurants, even on amusement park rides. Everywhere I go, he goes, and so nursing goes.

Recently, we traveled to Scandinavia. In the three weeks we spent in Sweden and Denmark, I observed three women nursing babies, uncovered, at the table at restaurants, and many others nursing at parks and playgrounds. In my entire life living in the US, I can recall seeing only one woman nursing at a restaurant, and very few in other public places aside from breastfeeding gatherings and LLL meetings. The cultural contrast between Scandinavia and the US was incredible to take in, particularly in how I observed children reacting to the sight of breastfeeding. In Scandinavia, I never once saw a child or a child’s parents react with alarm, disgust, shame, or even slight concern when they witnessed myself or other women breastfeeding in public. On a train in Denmark, a group of 15+ teenage boys boarded while I was nursing my son. One sat right next to me and offered a kind smile. Another boy noticed and looked for a second but didn’t behave awkwardly at all. The rest likely glanced my way at some point (they were only a few feet away from me), but none acted like it was a big deal – probably because in Denmark, as well as in Sweden, breastfeeding rates are much better than in the US, and the sexualization of breasts is much less profound.

In contrast, here in the Northeast US, I have had several experiences with nursing around groups of pre-teen and teenage boys. What has happened every time was this: one boy noticed, and immediately a storm of whispers, giggles, double-takes, stares and/or shyly averted eyes commenced. “Her boob is out! Pass it on!” While somewhat amusing, it’s terribly sad. The reason these boys are so giddy and awkward around the sight of my nursing breast is likely because women’s breasts are viewed as almost strictly sexual in the United States. Nipples are powerful enough to trigger massive media uproar and federal investigation when exposed in a “family setting.” Yet we flaunt breasts during primetime television broadcasts. Breasts sell products and ideas, and are widely fetishized. I take no issue with breasts being sexual, but they also need to be seen as nurturing. I believe the view of breasts as solely sexual is one of the primary reasons that so many people seem to think breastfeeding should be done in private, and are against nursing in public, especially uncovered. Breasts are too powerful and too sexualized for many people – that view can trigger a sort of cognitive dissonance when witnessing a sex object being used by a child for nurturance and sustenance. When breasts are seen only in a sexual way, it’s no surprise that it could be confusing and disturbing to see a baby’s (or worse: a young child’s) head in the way of an observer’s mental sexual objectification. It’s time that our society re-conceptualizes breasts as both sexual and nurturing, and stops shaming women for using their breasts in either manner.

I believe that nursing in public is one of the best things a breastfeeding mother can do for society as a whole – not just to give her own child a healthy start, but to give other people’s children the opportunity to see mothering and nurturance at the breast as normal, healthy, and enjoyable. Nursing in public helps re-normalize breastfeeding as the biologically optimal means of feeding a baby, and of comforting and nurturing a toddler or young child who no longer needs breastmilk for nutrition. It is appalling to hear news stories or personal anecdotes about breastfeeding mothers being asked to cover up when they nurse around children not their own. The only real reason people ask a woman to hide breastfeeding when she’s around children is if the person doing the asking views breasts as sexual or the act of breastfeeding as too intimate for public view. Yet, breastfeeding is not at all sexual. Why do some people see breastfeeding in that light? Perhaps because they haven’t seen enoughbreastfeeding to internalize how normal and natural it is. To convey to children that they should not be witnessing breastfeeding makes it a taboo, a secret, something dirty or shameful that must be done in private – like using the bathroom or engaging in sexual activity, both of which are sometimes ignorantly equated with breastfeeding. Children who receive that message enough may grow up to be adults who don’t want to breastfeed, who have to overcome psychological hang-ups in order to breastfeed, who shame or scold women who do breastfeed, or who discourage friends and family members from breastfeeding. Those attitudes harm children and women and society as a whole.

One of the easiest ways to reach children is on an individual level, by simply being visible to them and engaging them, answering their questions if so presented. A young girl who saw me nursing my son when he was an infant looked on in pure astonishment and asked me “what are you doing to him?!” as though I was hurting my baby. I simply smiled and told her I was breastfeeding him, that this was how he ate. It seemed as though she had never before seen a woman nursing a baby prior to observing me. I hope that her interaction with me provided her with a positive memory, and hopefully a question or five to ask her parents. Imagine if she saw another woman nursing in public the next week and every week after that. Eventually, it would cease to be a source of astonishment for that little girl and would become just a simple fact of mothering.

To change our culture’s perception of nursing in public and improve social support of breastfeeding as a whole, we need to start with children. We need to make nursing in public so boring, so quotidian, that it garners no more of a glance or second thought than seeing someone drinking a coffee or hugging a friend in public. We need to allow and encourage children of all ages to regularly and repeatedly witness the beautiful and natural act of breastfeeding, so they will grow up thinking nothing much of it, simply expecting it to be a part of their own parenting lives.

“Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen.” – Albert Einstein

Packing Our Hospital Bag!

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I am 35 weeks pregnant, so it is time to prepare our hospital bags! By researching online and from what I remember about my first birth I have prepared this packing list.

Labor/Delivery Bag

  • Photo ID
  • My birth plan and copies of it
  • A prepackaged snack for the labor and delivery staff like a box of muffins or granola bars
  • Glasses and contact lenses
  • Delivery outfit: Sports or nursing bra, my new pink delivery dress
  • Socks and slippers in case I don’t want bare feet
  • Picture of me with my oldest daughter at her birth
  • Lip gloss and/or chap stick
  • Coconut water for hydration
  • Favorite snacks such as luna bars
  • Picture of birthing statue from Ina May’s book
  • My pillow
  • Money in cash or change
  • Camera and video camera
  • Gum or mints
  • Placenta bags and cooler
  • Headband and rubber bands

For Recovery/Postpartum Room

  • Cell Phones and chargers
  • Toiletries, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, body wash, shampoo
  • Change of clothes
  • Nightgown or sweat pants and nursing tank top
  • Clothes to go home in, probably a sweat suit or maternity dress
  • Nursing bras
  • Gift for big sister
  • Picture of big sister
  • List of people to call
  • Nipple shields and nipple cream
  • Motrin or tylenol

For Baby

  • A going-home outfit
  • socks, under shirts, sleep gown
  • Burp cloths
  • Favorite receiving blanket that smells like home
  • Car Seat
  • Diaper bag with a few diapers and gentle wipes