Don't Touch My Child

Friday, November 15, 2019

The boundaries of our children are equally if not more important than ours. 

My second born has swim lessons every Tuesday and Thursday. During those swim lessons, naturally, lifeguards are present. During Tuesday's lesson, a lifeguard came in to rotate (they switch out every 15 minutes or so) and I immediately made a face because I knew how this lifeguard was. Granted, her job isn't to be fun, kind, or interactive with the kids -- but almost all the lifeguards we have met there, are. Not even five minutes into her rotation, she was already grabbing some child's arm, asking that they stay on the second step. I could feel the annoyance from the mom beside me, as this was her child being "handled" this way. As the activities for the lesson continued, so did the lifeguard's abrasive demeanor. She'd pull one child back to their proper spot, in an overly stern voice talk down to a different kiddo, and then there was my girl. Olivia was in the jump zone waiting her turn to jump (as she has about a hundred times before). As she was moving back, another little girl was sitting down on the swim mat behind her and she was unaware of that. Before Olivia could correct herself or anything -- this lifeguard grabs my daughter by the arm, says a few things about running someone over and tries to put her in her proper spot. It took everything I had not to lose my cool. I waited a moment, took a deep breath, and I walked over to where the lifeguard was standing.

I said, "Hi there. What's your name?" she proceeded to tell me. I then addressed her by name and I said, "I appreciate that lifeguards are near my little one in the case of an emergency or need. However, do not ever put your hands on my child again, unless you are trying to save her life. We are teaching Olivia healthy boundaries and that means, under no circumstance, will any adult -- authority figure or not, place their hands on her or near her private space without prior permission."

She looked so shocked. She just kept nodding and she said, "yes" rather quickly. For half a second I felt a little bad about calling her out. Luckily, it was time for another rotation, and she was replaced with a different lifeguard. In the moments following, I shook that feeling (feeling bad), because i knew this would be better in the long run. We shouldn't have to encounter another situation like this with her again.  As soon as my thoughts settled, the mom beside me looked at me and whispered, "thank you." This was the mom whose child's arm was being grabbed all around. I knew that I had done the right thing in advocating for not only my child, but it seems the other kiddos as well.

Here's the thing. My kids are constantly looking to me and their father for direction and making sense of the world. I will never, ever make them feel like they have to accept people ignoring their boundaries or down right violating them. They are people, too. They are small, but they are people and they feel everything we feel, even if they can't articulate it quite yet. This rule rings true for any adult, or child alike. Relatives, teachers, mom/dad, etc. If our babies don't want hugs (rare, if ever), then we respect that. If they don't want to smooch a relative on the cheek, we also respect that. If hand holding during an activity is more than the can handle that day, no hand holds! I don't want the kids to have any reason to believe that under certain circumstances, ignoring their comfortability and/or boundaries is acceptable. This leads into questionable behavior as adults and has the potential to invite confusion and unwanted/unhealthy scenarios for them in their lives. So I may have been a little rude to a lifeguard, but I hope it helps her in the future with little ones and I hope Miss Olivia was able to see that mama will always advocate for her. Always.

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