This post originally appears at word spur.
With all the news of child abuse and violence around children during my pregnancy and since the birth of my child, I’ve thought a lot — worried a lot — about how to keep children safe without teaching them to fear people they don’t know, without scaring them and robbing them of the carefree play that so needs to characterize childhood. I’ve read and thought a lot about safety, about how to raise children to know that their bodies are theirs and theirs alone, to raise them to be kind, compassionate and to speak out when they feel unsafe, to know that they’ll be supported, and to not be bystanders when they witness unkind behaviour or assault.
I’ve read a lot about it. And wish I had written this post earlier to keep track of all the excellent pieces I’ve come across.
The concept of body sovereignty has been a really good starting point for reflections on parenting : to wrap my head around what it means to care for the body of an infant who can’t feed, clean, move, or dress himself. To be conscious of power dynamics that maybe aren’t a huge deal now — he needs me to wipe his bum, no ifs, ands or buts about it — but that will come up sooner than I anticipate as kiddo builds up his independence and know-how. Liz Joynt Sandberg writes:
I temper the impossible coexistence of trying to convince Ida that she is the only one in charge of her body with the fact that I am sometimes in charge of her body. I explain that it’s okay for a mom or dad or babysitter to be in charge of a little kid’s body to keep them safe. And of course this is true. It has to be true. But I watch as this explanation does absolutely nothing to keep the look of utter betrayal from washing over Ida’s face as I force her body to safety against her will. She knows in the deepest way that she either is or is not in charge of her body. I hear all the time that kids are wildly illogical. I beg to differ. They are the strictest of logicians. Ida knows that something is wrong – that both A and not A cannot be true simultaneously.
And I know it too.