Family to the Rescue!

The day after New Year’s, our house came down with sickness. If you name the symptom, we had it. Someone was coughing, someone was barfing, someone could not stop singing Kidz Bop. Ok, that last one may not be related to sickness, but it’s definitely a symptom of some kind of ailment.

We had just started a stretch of the 5 day parenting schedule. My partner and I played a symptom game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, and I lost. (In case you’re wondering, Vomit trumps Cough.) I ended up doing most of the parenting for the next 2 days, balancing a fever and chest congestion. My partner vacillated between the bed and the toilet. It was not good.

By day 3 we were allowing way more screen time than ever, and my partner was able to get back to parenting (even if that meant laying on the couch in a heap while the kid watched her 4th episode of Winx). Some dear friends with kids offered to come by and get the kid for a playdate. They kept her through lunch and dinner, returning her at the relaxing hour of bedtime. Yesterday, another friend with a kid offered to have an extended playdate as well. He took the kid roller skating and out to lunch. At the house, we managed to clean our bodies and weep quietly for the love of our friends.

We don’t often think of friends as family. We’re taught as Americans (and for this house, white Americans), that we are a closed family unit; that problems must be solved by the family. That we can DO IT ALONE, NO THANKS TO ANYONE ELSE. ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVE, GRRR. Well after 4 days of the flu, I am happy to report that my family extends beyond the borders of my house. I’ve got kin down the street and across the country.

Thank you to each and every one of you that watched the kid this weekend (and those who offered!) and did so without question, in complete selflessness. Parenting while being sick is so hard, and my partner and I feel so loved and supported by this great extended chosen family!

a Punch to the Gut

Holiday in California

I wish this post was full of tales from my great vacation last week to California with my partner and the kid. I wish it was some sort of heartwarming story about a family conflict that we resolved over snuggle time before bed. Life isn’t always like that, and truth can hurt without a soft landing or a happy ending.

A few weeks ago, my partner, the kid, and I were getting ready to leave the house. This can be a long process, sometimes ending in Yelling Parent who cannot possibly say “Put your shoes on” for the 6th time. I said something like ‘Is this kid ready to go?’, which the kid heard as ‘Is my kid ready to go?‘. To be clear: I do not refer to the kid as “my kid”. She is clearly not the child I ‘created’, and I think that referring to another person as your property sounds a little creepy. Probably exasperated with the nagging adults trying to get out of the house, she said “Anyways, it’s not like I’m even your kid.” Ouch, man. Yeah, you’re not. But yeah, you sort of are.

If the kid is in the house, I’m an active parent. I plan time with friends around the kid’s schedule, making sure I am contributing in some way to caring for her whether it is helping with dinner, bathtime, bedtime, or playtime. I grocery shop with her likes and dislikes in mind. I notice when fun things happen in town and see if she’d like to go. I listen to her fears, her nightmares, her weird thoughts and creepy imagination. I’m there for her sicknesses, her triumphs, her tears, and her fun projects.

No, I didn’t plan her birth. I’m not a primary parent. I don’t have a say in where she goes to school, what state she lives in, and changes in her routine. I don’t choose her doctors and I don’t choose her haircuts. I’m glad she has a concrete understanding about who her parents are, and that neither myself nor her other parent’s partner are clouding that at all. But dang, that was a real sting of a sentence. She wasn’t upset, and we weren’t fighting about anything; I don’t even think she said it with ill will. She was just correcting what she thought she heard me say.

It was a nice reminder of what her teenage years may be like. Sometimes I think it could go both ways; she could find me a refuge from her folks and seek me out as an ally or she could take the stand of “You’re not my parent” and create that distance that teenagers need from the adults in their lives. Time will tell.

Summers We Remember

Summer is winding down. I never do as much as I think I’ll do during the summer; I didn’t get out and paddleboard and I went swimming just a handful of times. I did hang out with the kid every Friday to cut down on the childcare costs. It seemed daunting at the beginning of the summer. Every SINGLE Friday?! I’ve spent plenty of evenings and random daytime hours watching the kid alone, if her mom has plans with a friend, or wants to catch a yoga class. I had not spent an uninterrupted 8 solid hours of being solely responsible for her. It turns out that it’s not a big deal. You just roll with the punches, find time when you can to be alone, and make sure there are enough snacks to keep everyone’s blood sugar level nice and even. I’m not saying every Friday was a perfect parenting dream. On the Fridays when we had her for the weekend, it made for a long stretch of kid time where my patience ebbed away. Overall, I really liked spending our Fridays together and I’m a little sad that they’ve ended. She started school (1st grade!!), and the routine was needed by everyone, in both houses!

One thing that stood out to me over the summer of Fridays is how strong she is in defining her family. We had adventures all over the city on our Fridays, and we ended up interacting with different stranger adults and kids that would assume things about our family. The kid was swinging with a kid she just met at the park who wanted to invite E back to her house to play.

If it’s ok with your dad.
I don’t have a dad.
(Kid gestures to me) I mean, if your dad says it’s fine.
Yeah but I don’t have a dad. I have two moms. That’s Ethan.

We went to storytime at the library and the librarian was identifying everyone’s relationship in the room (I really don’t know why they did that. The stories were not about families or relationships. Seemed strange and without context to me..), she got to us and said “Oh, and this must be your Papa!”. E clung to my arm, buried her forehead in my side, and said nothing. Body language cue heard loud and clear, kiddo. I smiled and said “I’m more like her stepdad.” The librarian stammered a bit and made a vague statement about families and referred to me as “Papa” again. “Stepdad.” She hastily picked up a book to get started.

We have a different family that other people may not be used to. But we know who we are and don’t need others to define us for us.

Without further ado, here’s a photographic glimpse into our summer:

Science Museum colors

Six years old!

Hanging out with Dylan‘s kid

BONES

End of summer vacation (and haircut!)

* I do not post photos of the kid’s face or other kid’s faces. The internet is a vast place. To read more, check out this Salon article.

Guest Post: Holiday Edition

Kids aren’t always little angels who teach us the meaning of family and commitment. Sometimes they are just weird, disgusting people.
This post is a submission by a guest author. To submit your own guest post, click here.

Sometimes, our kids are brilliant and profound; they say things that really make us stop and think; things that make us beam with pride and joy.  However, more often than not, they say things that are absolutely ridiculous, cause us to (try to) stifle our laughter, and/or wonder what planet they actually hail from (because it sure as heck can’t be this one).

Living in house with a 5 year old and an 8 year old, I find myself often speechless, my mind completely at a loss, trying to understand what is happening right now.

The things these kids say, seriously. WTF:

“Remember in my bedroom at my old house, when we used to have sleepovers, and we’d pretend we were fish and cut each other up? Wanna play that?”

Well, now I don’t know that we should go to this Chinese buffet so much as maybe I should turn the car around and we should go to therapy… Pretending to be fish, that’s cool, I’m a Nemo fan myself, but fileting one another? Now that’s taken a macabre turn.  I’m grossly curious at the same time as to just how this game is played. Wait, I don’t want to know. Yes, I do. No, I don’t. Well, kinda… I don’t even know how to ask a follow-up question. Go, be fish, my children, for tomorrow we have sushi.

“I forgot to put underwear on this morning.  My butt’s been naked all day. Wanna see?”

*pulls down pants in front yard*

Well, now the neighbors have seen your alabaster kid-bum and probably are wondering what kind of circus I run over here…Oh, you know, my kid just mooning the neighborhood on a random Tuesday night. No big deal, right? Modesty, what’s that all about?  I hope they don’t call the cops. Maybe I should bring them brownies tomorrow and try to explain our kids are just weird… And, just how does one “forget” to put underwear on? The teenage years are going to be horrible. Oh shit, just thinking about it… Drink, please!

“If I give the dog a booger will she eat it? I mean, she eats her own poop. It has to taste better, right?”

Well, I mean, this is kind of profound, right? It’s most certainly it’s logical. She does eat her own poop, and I guess I’d venture anything tastes better than that, but, it still raises a few questions for me:  What’s the thought process here? How do you even arrive at this question? Do you have a booger right now?  (If you do, please don’t eat it.)  I don’t even know how to answer this question.  Why are kids so gross? Is this even normal?

“How about we were too pretty so the bad guys let us out?”

“Yeah! But first they cut off all of our hair!”

“OK! Don’t eat the sparkles!”

What. The. Crap. I have no idea what game this children are playing. Anti-reality, obviously.  Maybe I should have majored in child psychology.  Is my daughter going to think her looks get her out of troublesome situations?  I really hope they don’t actually have scissors… I’m completely at a loss here.  Why can’t we eat the sparkles? Sparkles are usually so tasty… Wait, maybe the sparkles are some dastardly drug and if we eat them… oh, wait I’m not playing this game.

And they wonder why parents are crazy? Have you heard the stuff children say? If you haven’t, you’re welcome to come spend a Saturday with these two…

For Boston

Seems close, but we still only have the one stoplight.

I’m from Boston. Ok, I’m not from Boston. But if you grew up west of Pennsylvania, it’s just easier to say Boston rather than: “Just outside of Boston. About 45 minutes west. Have you heard of Hopkinton, where the Marathon starts? What about Framingham? Ok, well it’s right next to Framingham. No, I don’t have the accent.”

It just so happens that I took a loosely planned road trip with a friend from Minneapolis to pick up hir furniture in New Jersey (where ze is from) last week. With room in the trailer, we headed up to Massachusetts to get my drum set out of my parents’ house. We drove through Hopkinton to get there, and though we didn’t drive over the starting line of the marathon, we were very close – close enough to read all the signs store owners had placed in their windows for the runners.

The marathon falls on a state-specific holiday every year. Officially called Patriots’ Day, most locals call it Marathon Monday. My father ran the marathon nearly every year since I was a child until his Achilles heel injury in 2005. We would find a spot on the route, coordinate with extended family members about the time and place, make signs of encouragement, and bring snacks. The night before, we’d have a large spaghetti dinner so that my dad could carbo-load.

I can’t imagine that anyone reading this has not heard of the Boston Marathon bombings that occurred exactly one week ago. Feels like a lifetime. My friend and I were able to spend some time with my family-of-origin as we packed up some of my things on the Saturday before the Monday bombings. Several (agonizing) days of driving later, and we were home. I was setting up my drums in my basement Monday after lunch, listening to NPR, as the word came through that someone had bombed the finish line of the marathon. Of course there’s confusion at first, and denial that it’s as bad as they say it is. I was thinking “I was just there. I asked Dad if he was ever going to run it again. I was in Hopkinton two days ago.” I was glued to media outlets for the rest of the day week. All my family is fine, by the way.

It made me start to think about conversations with kids. No one talked to E about the bombings; she’s too young to notice and we left NPR off for the week. I realized that I feel mostly reactionary with kids. If they ask a question, I will answer it – or at least I’ll think about it and get back to them. But how do I bring up things that may come up for them? How do you help kids deal with potential danger while allowing them to be be kids while they can? After an extended Captain Planet marathon the other day, E asked me: “Are there like really real bad guys out there?” and I didn’t know how to answer that. Yes, there are. But they won’t be putting a force field around an island to heat it up; they’ll probably try to touch your genitals. Reality is a hard thing for me to wrap my own brain around sometimes. I can’t imagine a world where I’m not hypervigilant about danger. Balancing the weight of the good and evil in the world and making the best choices you can make each day; that’s all I’ve got. But how to explain this to a kid?

“The word is beautiful and shitty, kid. Learn to enjoy booze and your friends and you’ll make it just fine.” I guess that’s not going to make it into a kid’s book any time soon. Any tips on bringing up conversations with older kids? Can’t Mr. Rogers just raise our children for us?

Stay safe out there. #bostonstrong

Lit Review: Be Who You Are

Hello! While E and Mama are away on a spring vacation, I thought I’d review a kid’s book I got in the mail last week. Be Who You Are by Jennifer Carr, pictures by Ben Rumback.

This book is, overall, really amazing. It has age appropriate, clear language. I read it to the 5.5 year old kid a few nights ago. In the story, a kid assigned male at birth expresses feelings that they’ve always felt more like a girl inside. Their parents are unflinchingly supportive and have her talk with a therapist who understands.

I did wince a bit at the “born in the wrong body” language, because I really feel like that is an oversimplification on an experience. Yes, some trans* people feel like they were born in the “wrong body”, but this puts language in where there doesn’t need to be. To say that some bodies are wrong, that means that most bodies are right. Instead, I like to think that all bodies have value and self-determination should dictate what we get to do with and to, our bodies. We don’t need to classify them as “wrong” in order to change them.

A kid of color! A trans* kid of color! Awesome! It would have been a lot more important that the main character be a kid of color, in my opinion, because of the prevalence of whiteness in our world. Yet again, people of color stay in their supporting roles on the side. 

The ending was nice, without the pretense of perfection. It was pretty amazing that the parents in the story were so supportive, although if you are a kid receiving this book – I think your folks are already going to be supportive.

I posted my excitement of this book to my Facebook page last week. I got lots of people interested and excited about it, and even a few people who had heard it already! I did get many questions about where to purchase it, with the explanation that the person knew someone who had a kid that would benefit from reading it. At first I was happy that people were interested in purchasing the book for the trans* kids in their lives, but then I started to think more about that. I got this book to make sure that our house has a wide representation of people. The kid has books about families with two moms, families that are divorced, families that live in other countries; this is just another book about the different ways to be a person in the world and how your family supports you. The kid shows no sign of being trans*, but she’s also 5 and a half; I have sweatshirts older than her. She may turn out to be a poly queer homo trans person. She may turn out to be a fiscally conservative hippy straight cis woman. Having books, media, and people in her life to show her what sorts of choices she can make help her figure it all out. She has two supportive parents and plenty of adults in her life that remind her that she doesn’t need to grow up into what the patriarchy expects her to.

People who wanted to buy the book specifically for kids who may be trans* miss the fact that their kid still could be trans* and come out later in life. Or they may have a friend or family member who comes out as trans* someday. Or they may just grow up to be a decent human being and learning about people who may be different than themselves is actually a great thing for anyone. So buy this book for the kid in your life. All the kids, not just the trans* ones.

Guest Post: We Start and End with Family

This post is a submission by a guest author. To submit your own guest post, click here.

“Other things may change us, but we start and end with family.” – Anthony Brandt

Five and a half years ago when my daughter came into the world, she was born into a family that loved her; she had a mama and an Ima who couldn’t wait to watch her grow up.

Fast forward five and a half years; a lot has changed, and a lot has stayed the same.  E’s mama and I are no longer together, though we are wickedly awesome at this co-parenting thing (at least I think). E has grown up and is now a headstrong kindergartener with more energy than all the grown-ups I know combined. E’s mama and I have stayed close and we both have amazing partners. I’m proud of us all for the way we work together to give E what’s best and truly care for one another; our family has expanded in ways I never knew were possible.

That doesn’t mean it’s always easy…

No matter how much we might wish otherwise, no parent can be there to witness and share in every moment of their child’s life.  A child grows up and goes off into the world with increasing independence; you expect to miss (and later hear about in great dramatic detail) a scraped knee or a bruised feeling that happened at school, this or that, here or there.  Any parent is (at least semi) prepared for that.

What you’re not prepared for is what happens when you read about your kid on someone else’s blog.  Or at least I wasn’t when I read about my daughter on this blog.  A simple recounting of 5-year old ridiculousness over some wet bed sheets by Ethan (Mama’s boyfriend).    My first thought was “oh yeah, I can totally see E doing that!” Followed quickly by, “As her Ima, I should have been the one to deal with that level of ridiculousness.”  Hello, Parental Guilt.

At times like this, as a parent, I feel bad. Am I missing out on parts of my daughter’s life? She has another whole part of her life that only includes me in the peripheral co-parenting sense and sometimes that’s a really strange feeling to have.  There’s this nagging sense of guilt that sneaks up every once in a while because I couldn’t give my daughter that poetic “normal” happy family; both parents happily together under one roof. And then I promptly remember that “normal” is overrated. Our new normal, it works for us.  E has a family that loves her; she has a mama and an Ethan, and an Ima and a Lisa (and a Nathan) who can’t wait to watch her grow up.

In the end, it’s a different life, and a different family for E than what we had intended when she was born, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t wonderful all the same.

No, You Can’t Do That: Being a Kid is Hard

As I get older, I forget things. This is true for everyone, of course. What I’m thinking about these days is how “parent” and “child” seem like two separate entities. I don’t remember, besides some specific memories, what it was like to be a child. There are things I enjoyed playing with, the friends I had, the holidays at various family houses. What I don’t remember are the feelings I had. What did it feel like, for me, to be a kid? Did I feel helpless? Did I feel misunderstood? How did I work through my anger or sadness?

These days I find myself getting exasperated with E, who is 5 years old, in some really minute moments. She got new superhero bedsheets this weekend, and I had put them through the washer. They were in the dryer when she went upstairs to pick out her pajamas. This was before dinner, before books, and before teeth brushing  She came downstairs to ask me to get them for her.

“They’re in the dryer. They’re still sort of damp. They’ll be dry by your bedtime, though.” I said.

“But I want them on my bed now!” She said in an instantly shrill voice, furrowing her brow.

“Well, your other sheets are dry. If you want sheets on your bed now, you can put those on. Or, you can wait for your Batman sheets, which will be dry by the time you go to bed.” Sometimes I think explaining things will help, but it usually doesn’t.

“No! I don’t want those sheets!” Now she was getting upset.

“Do you want me to go into the basement and get the Batman sheets for you so you can put wet sheets on your bed?” I try ridiculous logic. This is me, grasping at straws.

[She stomps back upstairs]

If an adult had reacted in this way, I would have unfriended them on Facebook. When does the logic development start, and more importantly, what does it feel like to not have a well-defined sense of logic at this age? What does it feel like to a young person to hear “You’ll still get [X, Y, or Z] if you can wait [2 minutes, 40 minutes, 3 weeks].” and not have a comprehensive sense of time?

When I wasn’t spending a lot of time with young children, I interpreted a lot of this behavior as disrespectful. I sometimes still have that knee-jerk sarcastic reaction of “Oh hey, you’re welcome for [washing your sheets/doing your dishes/cleaning your things].” when it happens, but now I don’t point it out. I’m understanding more and more that some of these things are developmental. It must be really hard to go through our world without the ability to connect A to B to C and make it to F where the solution may be. I can’t imagine what it feels like to a young person to be constantly relying on adults to provide everything for you, even as you are trying to build and own your power and agency in the world.

I wish I could remember how it felt to be on the other side of this equation. I guess I’ll have to rely on my own understanding of time to know that she will develop better logic and reasoning skills. It’s pretty clear that I don’t remember my emotional past. Is there a child version of ginko biloba? Maybe I could start E on them now, so she won’t go through this with her kid(s), if she ever has any.

Guest Post: Raising My Fabulous Child

Iʼm Matthias, and Iʼm a single dad to two small tornadoes. My life is crazy on a good day and Iʼm learning and loving every moment of it. (This post is a submission by a guest author. To submit your own guest post, click here.)

 

ThumperStyle

It hurts to have this much style.

Thumper and I were at the movies, heading toward the concessions counter. Thumper was skipping along as usual and another moviegoer smiled and commented: “What a happy girl.” Then she took another look, taking in the pink outfit and short haircut and changed her mind; “…boy,” she corrected herself. Then looking to me perhaps for clarification, she revised further: “…person.” This is one of my favorite examples of life with my gender-playful child.

Iʼm a trans guy, and a dad for almost five years now. Iʼve always talked about my trans identity with my kids, Thumper (almost five) and Monster (two and a half). I started explaining it by saying I used to be a girl when I was little. And that was it. I mean, all sorts of things change. Change is something that kids are learning about all the time. How snow melts into water, how water freezes into ice, how seeds grow into plants. Whatʼs one more? To kids who have never had gender norms imposed on them, girls growing up to be men is just one more possibility in a whole world of changing things.

Despite my best efforts, my children categorize things as “girl” or “boy” things. However, they freely choose between those options. Thumper has been largely choosing girl clothing for a little over a year, since he was three. He went through this awful phase of not wanting to wear any clothes at all–which is fine and good except it was late fall, I didnʼt have a car, and we walked everywhere. I had to get him to put something on so I could get him to school and get to work. After a few mornings of loading him naked into a sleeping bag and buckling him in the stroller for this lovely 30-some degree walk, I was at witʼs end. It was around this time that someone gave us a bag of dress-up clothes, including princess dresses. It was indeed magical, the switch from daily wrestling matches to get my kid into clothes to him being excited to put on a dress to wear to school.

Over a year later, Thumper still prefers dresses, skirts, anything pink or sparkly. Iʼm happy to be a parent who celebrates my fancy kid. Iʼm glad that I have experiences that I can share with him, and that he feels comfortable talking to me about things like gender. There are quite a few resources out there for parents of trans or gender-exploring children, but I havenʼt found any specifically for queer parents. I have moments of feeling scared about what life might be like for him as he starts school, but Iʼm more excited to share in this abundance of gender with my kid!

So, queer parents, how do we encourage our children to think creatively about gender?

Can I Tickle You?

I find myself starting to miss being warm sometime in January...

I find myself starting to miss being warm sometime in January…

Way back when Jetpack was cute and chubby and two years old, we were at the neighborhood sandbox, and Jetpack wanted to give someone a hug. He toddled over to the (older) Girlchild, who pushed him away and cried. Her mom explained that Jetpack was trying to be nice, and that it was okay for him to give her a hug.

Jetpack was definitely trying to be nice, but Girlchild didn’t see it as nice. She saw it as an intrusion of a stranger on her personal body space. And her mom explained to her that strangers are allowed in her personal body space.

We coerce our children into hugs and kisses and tickles. We force our kids to hold hands with strangers, or talk to them, and at the same time tell them to be careful. We expect our children to toe the line between “behaving nice” and “staying safe,” as if we as adults even know how to do that, as if there’s prescribed dance steps toward appropriate bodily autonomy.

“Childhood is not just a psychological state, but also a social status – and a very lowly one at that. Take one example: the frequency with which children are touched by adults. The amount of unsolicited physical contact people receive is a good indication of relative social position. It has been observed that bosses touch workers, men touch women and adults touch children much more than the other way round. To touch one’s social superior without good reason is an act of insubordination. Think how frequently children are shaken off when they use touch to attract an adult’s attention, and how that same adult can freely take hold of the child, adjust his or her hair, cut short his or her activities.“ (Stevi Jackson, 1982) *

Jetpack is now required to ask people if they want hugs. (He forgets sometimes, especially with close family members, but he also often forgets to close the front door, that he has a cup of water already, that he’s got shoes on. It’s an upward battle.) Often times parents laugh uncomfortably, and adults puzzle at his polite requests to hug them. But just Friday, at preschool, one of his friends didn’t want a hug, and pulled away and shook his head when Jetpack asked. And that’s okay.

A few weeks ago, Jetpack and I were walking down a pedestrian-heavy road. An older man smiled. “Aren’t you cute! What’s your name?”
Jetpack shrunk back against my side, hand gripped as if his very life depended on it. I shrugged.
“I guess he’s feeling shy today.”
It is the Tyler and my standard response when he doesn’t want to talk to someone. Afterward, we sat on a bench, and I asked him why he was feeling so shy.
“I just didn’t want to talk to anybody,” he pouted.
I paused. “Well, you don’t need to talk to people when you don’t want to. Just let me know and we’ll just keep walking, okay?”

An acceptable answer for a three-year-old. An acceptable answer for me, though in thinking about and researching this post, I came across the following comment (the rest of the entry [Bodily Autonomy and Sexual Abuse] is really worth reading, and includes a helpful step-by-step on helping children achieve bodily autonomy, though it is a tiny bit triggery):

My only complaint is that when your daughter did not respond, you asked her if she was feeling shy. Why even say that? You’re labeling her behavior, where you could simply respond on her behalf. In other words, she shouldn’t have to provide any explanation for why she isn’t responding. In these circumstances, I will respond in an appropriate manner, acknowledging the individual that spoke to my son.

I can understand not agreeing with the commenter, but I think I personally do. Labeling the (totally understandable and normal) reaction of “I don’t want to talk to this person” as “shyness” (arguably) turns personal choice and personal autonomy into a pathology. And I, as Jetpack’s dad, have been turning his moments of personal choice into a pathology—as if not wanting to be around a stranger is a strange, wrong, bad thing.

And it’s not. It’s just another symptom of the way in which the systematic degradation of society does a disservice to us all, even white (for now, assumably) male (for now, assumably) cisgendered children.

In a now-famous quote to Parade Magazine, the magnificent Will Smith says:

“We let Willow cut her hair. When you have a little girl, it’s like how can you teach her that you’re in control of her body? If I teach her that I’m in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she’s going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. She can’t cut my hair but that’s her hair. She has got to have command of her body. So when she goes out into the world, she’s going out with a command that is hers. She is used to making those decisions herself. We try to keep giving them those decisions until they can hold the full weight of their lives.”

It’s a quote I love, not only because it’s a rocking supportive quote from a dad, but also because it brings ideas of bodily autonomy into a strong, real world context, and it’s a damn positive one at that.

Compare it to this post titled “Will Your Son Be A Rapist?” There’s lots of interesting links on there, and a (understandably) frightening title, and an idea—how do we stop our children from raping—that needs to be addressed. The post addresses things like talking to our kids about sex (big thumbs up), and talking to our kids about not making disgusting rape jokes (huge fucking thumbs up) and the culture we’ve built up around rape in this country.

But I don’t really feel like starting from a hypothesis that my boy-oriented child will grow up to be a potential rapist is good for him, or anyone else. Because he might be raped. I don’t want to pretend that that’s not a thing that happens because it is a thing. But we so often think about bodily autonomy in children as a thing that girls need and boys have. We look at boy children and we don’t worry about whether they want us to touch their hair or tickle them, but we look at girl children and we worry about their safety.**

I don’t want to focus on teaching my son to not be a rapist. I need to focus on teaching him that he is not an under class because he’s small and young. I want to teach him that he is a person that has a body, and that he has a right to be touched when he wants to be touched and not touched when he doesn’t. And I think that I will teach him that it’s the same for other people—but that if I teach him HIS OWN bodily autonomy, that the bodily autonomy of the other children on the playground and the other teenagers at the party should come much, much, much more naturally.

“Can I tickle you?”
“No. Yes! No. Tickle me only when I say chocolate, and stop when I say toast.”
“Okay!” I hold my hands out at the ready and we grin at each other.
“Chocolate!” He squeals the word, and I dive in with finger tips to ribs. He wiggles and almost instantaneously shouts, “Toast!” I stop. He gets back into position. “Okay, now tickle me when I say poopy and stop when I say orange.”
I internally sigh, because the potty language is such a pain lately. “Okay.”
“Poopy!”

I really like this post of Raising My Boychick’s, Ten Tips For Tickling Without Trauma. Go read it if you have a kid. Go read it if you’ve never been around a kid. Go read it if you’re a school teacher or an aunt or any other human being.

This is a little harder to read—or anyway, as a survivor, I find everything having to do with the tragic happenings at Penn State hard to read—but please do. Now Give Your Uncle A Kiss.

I don’t think there’s one way to raise your child. I don’t think your child is going to grow up to be raped or a rapist or anything ridiculous like that if you over tickle them, or if you make them give Creepy Aunt Sally a hug. I do think that as a parent, as a dad, I have very large responsibility to my child. I think you, as a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, role model, caregiver, or random imposing adult on the street, also has a responsibility to children you encounter. Your responsibility is to respect their space and their feelings and to not treat them as an under class.

As a white male person, I wield more privilege in a lot of situations. As my kid is a white male person, he’s going to have privilege that he needs to learn the meaning of, an understanding that the bodies of others belong to them. And he’s going to, at times, be a vulnerable person in situations where teaching him that his body is his is super, super important. So let’s teach our children to be meaningful in their physical space, powerful in their defenses and respectful of each and every creature around them.

*Thank you to Kate for scoring this quote for me!

**In researching this post, I found few-to-no blog posts about the fear that our CHILDREN might be abused, and handfuls and handfuls that our DAUGHTERS might be. I don’t in any way want to vilify those parents, because I get it. I really do. But I think we need to take the conversation further.