Preschool, Spring 2016
“Mommy,” came the voice from the carseat, “[Classmate from school] was driving his truck into my foot. I told him to stop, but he didn’t.”
I opened my mouth and then, nearly as quickly, closed it in horror. A voice from my childhood almost came out. I almost responded to my daughter as follows: “Oh, he was only doing that because he likes you.”
Did you ever hear that? If you were a girl, and a boy in your class in preschool or elementary school pulled your hair, or tugged on your clothes, or, worst of all, snapped your bra-strap?
And how it progressed as we get older, to rationalize cat calls, unwanted kisses and touches, degrading name calling.
“He’s only doing it because he likes you.”
And here I was, about to tell a four year old, MY four year old, hey, when someone touches you in a way you don’t like, they’re only doing it because they like you. How fucked up is that? Not only was I going to encourage my child to give up her personal agency, but this little boy, who, I am sure, was simply being four as well and not observing his personal space, was also going to get a tacit lesson in his own ability to take up space. That he has the right to drive that truck wherever and into whomever he wanted.
These patterns. This is how young they begin.
You see the date on this post. This moment, this dialogue, this one second pause in responding to my child, has been whirling in my mind, on repeat, since last spring.
What did I say?
After I took a moment, endless to me but likely imperceptible even to my impatient offspring, I offered the following:
“If anyone ever touches you in a way you don’t like, you need to tell them, ‘Stop! I don’t like that!’ If they continue, and you are at school, you need to tell the teacher, or another adult. If the teacher doesn’t stop them, or if they don’t stop, you need to tell mommy or daddy right away.”
“Ok,” was the simple response. We continued our ride home.
About a week later, I came to school for pick-up. It was a beautiful day, and the kids were outside. Engrossed in play, my child doesn’t see me. I see a classmate run a toy into her. She fixes him with a steely glare, “Stop!,” she says in a loud voice, “I don’t like that!”
He scurries away. Mischief managed. For now.