First School Dance
Last week Friday, I brought Mali to school for a Halloween dance. Full disclaimer, I was in awe the whole time, I am so not ready for him to grow up and go to school dances. Like what? I feel like it was just the other day, my parents were driving me to P.S 48 for my school dances. How the hell I have a child old enough to be doing these things, I still don’t know. He’s growing up and it feels way too fast to wrap my head around.
Children are a visual reminder of time passing
I can’t question if 5 years have really gone by, I can literally see them standing bright eyed and bushy tailed in my face, daily.
So obviously this was our first school dance and I was honestly just happy I was even allowed to come. Malachi Is extremely social. He is the kind of kid that talks to everyone; kids his age, kids older, kids younger, literally anyone.
So it’s safe to say, I wasn’t surprised when we walked in and he immediately asked me if he could go dance with his friends. We hadn’t even gotten our tickets yet before he was already chatting it up with a mini costumed Captain America. I don’t know what I was expecting, but of course I held in my disappointment and awkwardness of being left alone at a dance (AGAIN) and went to sit my butt down.
Seeing him laugh and play with his friends was eerily comforting. It felt good just knowing that he’s okay. He’s happy. I think we can all agree, that’s all we want, our children to be happy and to be OK when we’re not there to protect them.
We were probably there around 45 minutes when Mali came to say hello to me, I guess he finally decided to check on his life giver. I’m dramatic, I don’t care lol… We chatted a bit and ate some pizza. When he was all done, he was running back to go meet with his friends when he noticed someone he knew; a little girl sitting with her father at a table just in front of us. Mali stopped abruptly, hugged her from behind and of course she looked back surprised but said hello when she saw who it was.
Now, it was innocent. Mali isn’t aware of personal space or boundaries. I mean he’s 5; he still waits until I’m on the toilet, to come say hello. But, he isn’t aware yet because he hasn’t been taught. Why wait until he’s older? I know my son didn’t have any nefarious intentions when hugging a friend but I couldn’t let it go. Believe me, I wanted to brush it off.
Come on they’re 5 right, its okay. No harm done.
But then I remembered, that age doesn’t matter. The intent doesn’t even matter. What matters is the feeling. The way she felt, being taken by surprised from someone hugging her from behind. The way she felt in that moment not knowing who had their arms around her.
Granted she may not even understand those feelings, or even the ability to acknowledge them, but she will.
The way I see it, there are two scenarios. I could let it go and Mali continues to be the affectionate child he is and hugging his friends from behind when they are unaware. I’ll just sit back, cross my fingers and hope no woman ever calls him out on it, no matter how uncomfortable she feels.
I would hope she would just suffer in silence every time he and any other boy made her feel like she wasn’t in control of her own body. Anytime they touched her without her consent, under the guise of innocence and oblivion, she would just ignore it and save my son the heartache of confrontation. I mean she didn’t say anything when she was 5 so why the heck does she have the right to when she is 15 or 25, right?
I have another choice. The second choice, the awkward choice, awkward for me that is. I can make myself uncomfortable for exactly 2.5 minutes and explain to him why it’s important to not hug a girl from behind when she isn’t aware. How it’s important to not make his friends feel uncomfortable even if he didn’t mean any harm. I can stop the cycle right there in that moment, and remind him that respect, kindness and love Is not measured by how you feel but by how you make others feel in your presence.
Explaining that to my 5-year-old son wasn’t difficult. Yes, I would have been 100% more comfortable having that convo 3 years from now or even better 5 years from now but by then how many little girls would he have hugged from behind without thinking twice. How many times would he have instilled into someone’s daughter the societal notion, that woman’s bodies are outside of their control. How many times would he have pushed a little girl a step closer to powerlessness… leaving her a voiceless woman.
To be clear I didn’t tell him, oh don’t touch little girls. I told him, if you are going to hug someone, make sure they’re aware of it. Don’t hug a girl or boy from behind and then keep walking to go play casually. That if you want to hug someone, you look them in the eye, say hello, make sure it’s a friend and make sure they know you are extending that gesture.
We aren’t punishing our boys for being loving and wanting to show affection when we teach them boundaries. I love that Malachi is so affectionate and sweet. However, I’m teaching him to be aware of how he shows that affection and to whom. I’m teaching him to be conscious of the way an action, even an innocent one, can make the receiver feel. We have to recognize these occurrences when they arise so they don’t become habits. Whether your child is 4 or 5 or 10, make yourself uncomfortable, and acknowledge these events in the moment if and when they arise.
Remember, teaching our boys to be respectful of little girls’ body and space, only ensures we have a world of men who respect women’s bodies and space. It’s not hard. Yes, it may be uncomfortable because doing this guarantees that our mind will wander to a time when our baby boy is no longer a baby. But I’d much rather be uncomfortable now, than staring across from my “baby” in the high school principle office or even worst, a court room.