Friday, April 7, 2017

Trying not to raise assholes


Tricky has his first girlfriend and it is the cutest thing ever. No, really. Cat videos have nothing on this.

Previously he's called his favourite people his "best buddies" whether they be boy or girl. On Valentines he gave little homemade gifts to three girls and one boy, because he loved them the most. But he has never used the words girlfriend or boyfriend.

When he accompanied me to an Equal Love rally he expressed great disappointment that he couldn't legally marry his male friends, and was very relieved when I let him know that by the time he was an adult, I was sure it would be legal and he could marry whomever he loved. (Hey government, don't make me a liar, OK?)

But now, he says he has a girlfriend.

And she says Tricky is her boyfriend.

Her name is Ruby (used with permission), but Tricky calls her Beautiful. She calls him Tricky Eagle. Pet names? Geez. This must be serious. Heh.

They write each other love notes. They chose Easter presents for each other. They steal glances, then ignore each other for most of the day. Not unlike some marriages, really. Adorable.

Ruby's mum and I were chatting about how they will remember each other's names forever and that it is so lovely.

You remember the firsts. Your first boy/girlfriend. Your first teacher. Your first best friend.

I'm hoping the other firsts Tricky remembers are these first conversations we've started having about consent when it comes to girlfriends and boyfriends.

Shock, horror, she's talking to her six year old about consent?!

You betcha. And guess what? We've been talking about it since he was about two or three because one of my main aims of parenthood is not to raise assholes. Toddlers are assholes by default, I'm talking about when they become adults.

Our conversations around consent started out by letting him (and obviously Bobbin, too) know that he doesn't have to kiss or hug anyone he doesn't want to. We've always respected it when he has refused a hug or kiss, and even when he has declined a high five despite part of me wanting to say "don't leave me hangin', bro!". The exception to this is a game we play called Surprise Cuddle, where you randomly go up to someone in our family and shout "SURPRISE CUDDLE!" (we are not very inventive game namers) while wrapping your arms around them. It's an exception because so far it has been enjoyable for all and no one has said stop.

From there we've also always respected that he hates being tickled, so we don't do it. On the other hand, Bobbin looooves being tickled, so for her we stop when she says stop... which is usually followed by her saying "TICKLE ME AGAIN!".

So now we're talking about what is and isn't OK in terms of having a "girlfriend" which is actually no different to our conversations around how we treat friends, but he kinda likes hearing the word girlfriend so I'm going with it. It hasn't been a sit down, formal talk; it's us, together, having a chat about his day and when he mentions her, I take the opportunity to say a few small things.

Like "You have to ask her before you hug her" and "Just because it was OK to hug her yesterday, doesn't mean she wants a hug today, so you should check again".

I've also said "You're both allowed to say no to having a hug if you don't feel like it, that's OK" and "When she says she doesn't want a hug, say that's OK and find something else to do". I've reminded him that no one likes to be pestered when they've said no, though this usually applies to him asking me to play Minecraft for the 1352nd time in an hour.

Just tiny little things, slotted in to a conversation.

I believe having conversations about consent with kids in age appropriate ways is imperative. Teaching both boys and girls to respect the word no, actions that indicate no, and us as parents respecting their right to say no, even when granny might get upset, will help counteract the rape culture that still surrounds them, where members of my own extended family have said that a boy hitting Bobbin is a sign he likes her (don't worry, that was dealt with very quickly).

Do you talk about consent with your kids? How do you bring it up?

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