I remember being five years old and hate, hate, hating having to hang my coat up in the closet. I screamed to my mother one day that if I ever had kids of my own, after the millionth time she bothered me about hanging my coat up, that I would never ever ask my kids to clean up after themselves because it was the absolute worst and in no way fun.
I eventually came around because mom and dad were the boss of me and although I still lazily throw my clothes on the floor, more often than not I get embarrassed enough to not want to live like a slob and put them where they belong.
But my own childhood words are biting me in the butt right about now because my son also loves causing a mess. His idea of "playing" with blocks is to dump them all over the floor, kick them around for no longer than six seconds, then resume stomping around my apartment, pretending to be a T-Rex.
My toddler is just a giant bag of enthusiasm and stubbornness and I'm constantly trying to work to reroute that stubbornness into non-garbage social behavior. Yes he cries, yes he throws tantrums, yes he wants to have chocolate and gummy bears (which he refers to as "purple snacks," regardless of their color) before he's had an actual meal, but I don't relent.
Now I don't claim to be an expert on parenting, and I guess we'll have to wait a couple of decades to see how my toddler and new baby daughter eventually turn out. But I have to admit I scoffed to myself and shook my head after I saw this headline where sexual consent expert, Deanna Carson, said that parents should 'ask' their baby's permission before changing their diaper.
There's an obvious joke to be made about this and it's that babies can't really understand a gosh darn word you say or really signal whether they approve of something or not. If they did, my daughter would answer with a cooing, "I AM" every time I ask with sugar in my voice who the cutest baby is.
But after the hullabaloo of that ridiculous headline died down, Caron's "real" point was made and on the surface, it seems like a totally reasonable one: to train children from a young age about the importance of consent.
Waiting for their response is supposed to instill a sense in the child that their response is an important one and is supposed to give them a greater autonomy over their bodies when they're older.
Now there are a lot of people who think that sounds good. Heck, even I did for a second.
I don't ask my son if he wants to go to the bathroom, I pick him up and take him to the toilet and try to make going number 1 or number 2 into a fun game. There are some days he would fight me tooth and nail begging to get off the toilet, kicking and screaming. Then, five minutes later, he pees his pants. Whenever I asked him, previously, if he had to pee, he'd say no, then come rushing to me minutes later saying, "pee pee, pee pee" with already wet underpants.
My 1-month-old infant cries hysterically when there's poop in her diaper, signaling to me that something is wrong. I put her on her changing table and then start singing our family's, "let's change the stinky diapey" song, removing her stanky clothes and poo-soaked diaper. She hates that just as much and starts wailing. So if I asked her consent before removing her diaper and she disapproves of it and I do it anyway, aren't I just teaching her that no matter what she says or does, her consent ultimately doesn't matter, and with someone who loves her unequivocally?
You can't let most adults do whatever they want, let alone give children a "say" in what they want to do. My son will eat bananas, grape tomatoes, and Maria cookies all day if I asked him what he wanted to eat. He'd sit in front of an iPad for hours. Oftentimes, he doesn't even know what he wants. For two weeks he begged me everyday to go to the zoo. The day I hyped him up to go, he was ecstatic, then, at the last minute, he said, "No ZOO!" and then threw himself on the floor like a big drama queen.
30 minutes later, when we were at the park walking around, and he saw the animals and other kids playing, he was an overjoyed little nugget. I mean I can't count the number of times I did something as an adult that I thought I didn't want to do that ended up being awesome.
So she might be coming from a totally good place, but it doesn't mean that it's not a completely idiotic idea. There are better ways to teach children about consent. And I can tell you that my toddler already has a strong sense of personal autonomy. Just watch him wriggle away from random kids at the park who want to hug him or push off of relatives who give overbearing smooches - he's got autonomy to spare.
And I'd wager plenty of other kids do as well. What do you think?
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