Dear Consent

Dear Consent,

Have been musing on you a lot lately in lots of different ways. Partly because of the Mumsnet- we believe you campaign and teaching my girls about consent, and partly because in the world of internet and sharing information- how much information is actually yours to share and should your family be consenting participants in anything you share about them online?

I have really been pondering about how I teach my tiny girls about consent. I realised that sometimes I ask Oddler for a kiss or a cuddle and she says “No!” in that charming emphatic toddler way of hers and I used to do it anyway because I love kissing and cuddling her, she either giggles or tries to run away. But I’ve decided I need to stop doing this because she isn’t consenting and she does need to start gaining autonomy over her body and to who she let’s kiss or cuddle her. Likewise I plan on never making her kiss relatives goodbye etc if she doesn’t want to. It is important to me she learns from a young age that No really does mean No and nobody should do anything you don’t want to your body without your consent.  So now I ask her for a cuddle or a kiss, if she says no that’s okay and other times she comes to ask me for a kiss or a cuddle and that’s awesome but more usually its daddy she wants as she is a total daddy’s girl- *sobs*. Same should go for tickling- tickling kids can be hilarious- their hysterical delighted laughs can cheer anyone up on the bleakest day but sometimes when they are giggling and shouting “No!” they really mean the No- so I think it is important to check in with her with lots of tickling breaks- usually in seconds she is is “again again again” but if she isn’t then time to stop the tickle wars.

Widening that out- she often doesn’t want to wipe her face, brush her teeth or have a bath, and sometimes we do force her do those things, (mainly because we don’t want nursery to call social services on our neglectful parenting!)  but we do try to get her agree to it as much as possible (top tip- Snuggle Bunny Puppet is a master teeth brusher where Mummy simply isn’t allowed).  I guess the key is to try and get the balance between her having autonomy over her body but also her being kept healthy and safe and recognising that at 2 years old she simply will sometimes have to do some things she doesn’t consent too, but where ever possible to encourage her to go along with the necessary course of action!

Also in terms of information and photos I share about my girls I am worried about consent issues there.  I have written a few letters in which my girls may be embarrassed when older that I told the internet that! However I would never ever publish anything to deliberately shame or embarrass my girls- I am so proud of them but sometimes they do say or do things that are worth sharing and celebrating, because they are so wonderfully daft and funny, and I do hope they see it like that and if they ever asked me to take anything down because they didn’t want it on the blog I would do it (with good reason obviously).  One tip from a tweeter was to always ask “Is it okay to tell people that?” and Oddler is almost able to understand that and as she and her sister grow up I definitely think that is the course of action I will take (I would also like to run things past LordCurd but he has decided he has utterly no interest in my blog but if a furore is created about something I say he will probably notice and ask me to take it down two weeks later (uh oh- license to fuck up!)).

I don’t want to censor my blog too much as I want to record these funny things as they happen so we can have something to look back on and smile about as they get older.  I would share them with people in real life too but obviously the internet is potentially a much wider audience, however I love writing my letters about important things in my life and my family is a huge part of that. It’s a bit of a dilemma I think I shall maintain this blog being fairly anonymous. Granted a fair few readers who I really am (not Ann Widecombe as I claimed to a tweeter this week)– but they are generally also real life friends and the sort of people I would talk to anyway about Oddler or Omble’s embarrassing moments.  But as Oddler and Omble are fairly anonymous to you the rest of you it is unlikely they will ever be outed as the “girl who once called her vulva- Buddha or wasn’t quite ready for potty training” etc etc. but just in case re. that happening I have decided to limit photos of the girls on this blog from now on.  They both already look so different from any existing pictures on the blog (and have removed one or two), so my sort of rule of thumb now is to try to only publish photos on my blog of the toddler where her face is obscured- as she is more readily identifiable, and probably do the same with the baby when she is a bit older (as lets face it all babies look the same anyway) ;).  Twitter is slightly different as photo tweets don’t last forever (I have a habit of regularly deleting all my tweets), and as the girls get a bit older they can tell me which photos or information they are okay with me sharing and hopefully all will be fine.

So dear Consent- is there anything else I should think about?

Your’s (but only if you want me 😉 )



12 responses to “Dear Consent

  1. This toddler-hack is how you obtain consent for toothbrushing/face washing.

    “Oddler, which would you like to do FIRST?”
    Those stupid babies feel like they have autonomy but their teeth are clean and their face is wiped. HA!

    • yeah am a big fan of the old two choices trick except sadly Oddler is wise to it quite often and just says no to both more often than not or deliberately ignores. We now offer her “easy way or hard way” and she is starting to go for easy way! haha

      • LOL. Also, just thinking about it. 2 year olds don’t really have the ability to consent to be physically neglected… so if a parent were to obey all the “NO!!!s” that come out of their adorable little mouths, it’s not really “informed consent” as such.

        Apparently this closed-choice thing works like a mo-foing dream after they get over the “I am a different person therefore ¡¡¡NO!!!” hump. My mate’s kid is five and it’s still going strong. But yeah, when she was two, she was absolutely positively NOT going to have anything to do with personal hygiene.

        Would saying “You’re not ALLOWED to brush your teeth/wash your face!” work? (Or is that asking for a social services report after your child says something at daycare?)

  2. I really, really wanted to comment on this but I have no idea what to say as I don’t know what the answer is! But anyhow, I am totally with you on this. It’s just so hard! (I’d make a great agony aunt, me)

  3. My mum kept diaries, they were her thoughts and views about her girls she also had many photos.throughout my entire life she used them to prove points and to hurt/embarrass us, reading aloud from them to family and friends to get her point across, digging out awful photos at inappropriate times and sniggering at our responses, I therefore continue to blog and tasker photos but always inform/request permission to post online, my kids have the write of reply in and to my blogs and give both sides of the story. I’m not so generous with my husband though….lol

    • I think that’s a key point- that parents can and do embarrass us even pre-internet. If we diarise or blog- ultimately it could come out and possibly hurt our kids but I guess the key is to gain informed consent from the people you care about that you write about (I wouldn’t extend that courtesy to someone I wanted to rant about but I’m not a cow- I usually rant in a mostly nice way!).

  4. I found this so interesting as it’s something I hadn’t put much thought towards in terms of children being able to say no in terms of contact other people have with them, however, I do believe no should mean no and they need to know they can say it and mean it. This is a great post and has given me some stuff to think on, thank you.

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  7. I think you can probably rest a little easy on the children being embarrassed front. I remember from my childhood being intensely embarrassed by my parents’ revelations of the ‘funny’ things I said, but I, like them, now see them as charming and sweet, and I’m glad I have them to remember as a shared, and personal, family history.

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