Dear Strangers: Please Don’t Touch My Kid
Dear Stranger, Please don’t touch my kid.
I’m sure you mean well. I can see that you’re a parent yourself.
I also hear that my daughter was laughing when you tickled her. And no, I didn’t even say anything to you because I’m non-confrontational to a fault. But I’m asking you now: please don’t touch my kid.
It has nothing to do with germs. Your hands are
probably cleaner than my living room rug. And it’s not even about “stranger danger.” Not really. (Because I know that “strangers” are capable of providing urgent help and “danger” can come from people you don’t consider strangers at all.)
It has to do with respect.
Stranger, do you touch adults without their consent? No, you don’t. You always keep your hands far away from me. Did you read my daughter’s cues about whether or not she wanted to be touched? No, you didn’t. At one point, she even pushed your hand away when you asked for a high five. Did you ask me if it was okay or read my response to your unsolicited pokes? No. Not even the multiple times when I mentioned that she was “cranky and ready for a nap.” (Stranger, if you were as sleepy as she was, I would have completely left you alone. It’s just common courtesy.)
Why, Strangers, do you treat children like they are dolls that have been dressed up for you to play with? Why don’t you consider them as people in their own right, with thoughts and emotions that are just as complex as worthy of respect as yours? And—most importantly—why are you teaching my daughter that her body belongs to everyone who sees her?
You see, parents have a hard job. We are responsible for teaching our children about the complex issues of “consent,” “saying ‘no’ when you feel uncomfortable,” and “stranger danger.” We are also responsible for teaching them to be kind and polite to everyone they meet. This, as you can imagine, is a fine line that we have to tightrope walk every time we venture out in public.
And how can I teach my daughter that her body belongs to nobody but her if everyone is always touching it?
Believe me, I totally get that you wanna pinch her little cheeks and bite her little toes. (I’m obsessed with those little piggies!) But I’m asking you politely, and with as much respect as I hope you show my child: please don’t touch my kid.
2 thoughts on “Dear Strangers: Please Don’t Touch My Kid”
My thoughts exactly! Though, I am a little more confrontational and am quick to tell people “no!” As a survivor of child abuse, I try to make sure my son is aware that his body is his and others need to have respect for his wishes if he doesn’t want physical contact with them. I don’t even allow adults he knows well to tickle him if he says to stop or gets upset. I want him to know that he can always tell someone to stop touching him if he is uncomfortable.
Emily, I am so SO sorry that you had to live through such an ordeal and I applaud you for sticking up for your son! (People tend to forget that boys can become victims of sexual abuse, too.) You have definitely inspired me to speak up more when we are out in public. Perhaps, if I say something, that person will think twice about touching another child who they aren’t familiar with. And I definitely agree with you about family needing to keep their hands off when the child tries to set boundaries. Why is it so hard for people to treat children like full-fledged people?