LIFE: Boundaries Around Children

LIFE_ boundaries around children juicygreenmom

It’s so interesting what different people are used to with strangers, big gatherings, and shopping malls. I used to think it was more nurture than nature, that your upbringing and family culture dictated how you behaved and reacted in these situations. Watching my daughter from infancy to toddlerhood has changed my viewpoint a bit. Even at 2 months old she was scared of strangers, and would scream bloody murder. Her stranger anxiety was really bad from 4 months old to about 14 months, crying when other people made eye contact or touched her, and clinging to me like cling wrap does to itself. Even my husband’s family members, who she saw on a regular basis, were likely to make her cry. Whenever we’d meet up with another mommy and baby, I would be envying the other mommy whose baby was calm and curious, not anxious and screaming.

Now that she’s passed 2 years and 8 months, she has definitely improved in terms of her reaction to strangers or people she doesn’t see often enough to really know. But I am just as frustrated today as I was when she was a tiny baby when people cannot be respectful of boundaries.

I understand that babies and small children are cute, and therefore very attractive to the average adult. I believe they were made that way so that their parents wouldn’t throw them out of windows when they’re inconsolable. However, being super cute does not mean that a baby or young child wants their personal space invaded. It amazes me how they are not really considered “people”, more like pets, or commodities to be petted and squeezed.

My daughter was born with a lot of hair, and we have only gotten it cut once since she was born (traumatic undertaking so I haven’t been brave enough to go at it again). So she has really long hair. Which looks pretty adorable with her hairclips or ponytails or whatever. Add to that the toddler girl cuteness factor and you have something many people cannot resist touching.

She was holding my hand at IKEA (I know, I know, we go there a lot) and we were getting ready to walk down the stairs. A lady came from behind to pass us, and as she passed, she put her hand on my daughter’s head and ran her fingers through her hair. No words were exchanged, no eye contact was made. My daughter immediately flinched and grabbed my leg. Thankfully no tears that time. But I just wonder why that woman thought that would be a perfectly acceptable thing to do.

My daughter’s hair is not an item at IKEA that you can finger at your leisure to see if you like it.

She is a living, breathing human being with feelings and boundaries, just like every other person. Yes, she is a tiny cute person. But a person nonetheless! I certainly would not go up to someone I barely knew and caress their cheek with my hand or stroke their hair. I wouldn’t get right into their face and start cooing at them and breathing into their nose and mouth. I’m pretty sure most adults wouldn’t do that to most other adults. So why is it okay to do it to kids?

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. So why does it seem that everywhere we go, people can’t keep their hands to themselves??

Have you encountered issues with boundaries around children?


12 Responses

  1. That is creepy! People think that just because they think our kids are cute they can touch them. Ummmmm, no thank you! I would have been tempted to put my hand on that lady’s head, except I’d be afraid of bugs!

  2. That is inappropriate. As a mom of a freak show- AKA twins- we always attract attention. The weirdest request we had was we were all eating supper at a restaurant near our home and a random stranger offer to hold our 9 month old kids so we could eat supper. We politely declined and she persisted on the subject saying she loved kids and was a good person. I don’t care who you are, I don’t know you. And anyways couldn’t she see that they were eating?

    • Thanks for the support, Kirstin! Yikes! Your story needs a blog post of its own. It just makes me wonder if people like that sometimes actually get a different reaction. Would any other parent in your situation have said, “Sure, why don’t you hold my babies!”, or am I just too far on one side of the spectrum?

  3. Someone, also at IKEA (!:), took a picture of my kid on her phone. Just walked up to us and snapped a shot! She quickly realized this was weird and then asked my permission. So strange.

      • No! Just a pic of my kid! She said he reminded her of her son when he was that age, so I did say ok. She seemed sane enough once we talked for a minute, it was just interesting to me that she didn’t seem at first think of my son as a person. I mean, one wouldn’t just snap a shot in an adult’s face without asking first. I liked the points you made.

        • Thanks, Elizabeth. Yes that is exactly what baffles me too! Especially if she has kids… Why wouldn’t she see your son as a person? Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Had a weird experience in Walmart once. My infant daughter was sleeping in her car seat, which I had propped on the cart with a cover over top (it was winter). An elderly man came over, opened up the cover and started poking at her while his wife watched. I was so in shock, I didn’t say a thing. But I was definitely ready if someone ever did that again. Don’t touch my kid, thanks. 🙂

    • Yikes!! Why do people think that is appropriate?? I understand you being so shocked that you couldn’t say anything, though. That’s definitely happened to me too!

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