Thursday, September 25, 2008

Kissing Tanya

There are so many kids who are all 'FREE LOVE!!,' distributing sloppy kisses and grubby hugs everywhere they go.

E is not one of those children.

Many kids at her school run inside every morning and hug and kiss each teacher as they first encounter them. E will sometimes kiss them. Sometimes she will hug some of the teachers, but not all. Sometimes she'll respond to their morning greetings with DON'T! TALK! TO! ME!

One teacher in particular doesn't seem to quite get it that E means it: she Does Not want any physical interaction at the beginning of the day. When this teacher obliviously tries to scoop E into an embrace, E yells things like DON'T TOUCH ME AND DON'T! LOOK! AT! ME!

Wallflower, she's not.

Ms. Lisa, one of the lead teachers, has named this aspect of E's personality "Tanya." Tanya's a tough one. She could survive on the streets and doesn't take sh*t from anyone.

E's particularness with affection isn't limited to the school environment. She is frequently just as unreceptive to the advances of relatives. What she doesn't understand is their naked love for her is so strong they want a physical outlet. What they don't understand is that physical interaction on terms other than her own is not received as love, but rather as intrusion. What I don't understand is how to defend her privacy and encourage others to respect that privacy and still let everyone feel like they've enjoyed enough access to her. We teach her that she doesn't need to kiss or hug anybody if she doesn't want to - it's her body, and she dictates what happens with it, not anyone else. I believe that strongly. Otherwise what message does it send? Someone wants to kiss you so be polite and let them? How does the notion of being two and having to submit to a relative's unwanted kiss translate to being sixteen and submitting to a non-relative's unwanted kiss? So we tell her she never has to touch anybody, but she does need to be respectful. She needs to wave or shake hands or acknowledge the other person somehow.

She's heeded our lesson; she defends her body and I'm so proud of that. She extends it to us, too, though. At her bedtime tonight I had her milk in my hand and I asked her, right before we turned towards the stairs, if she wanted to say good night to Daddy. She looked at the Band-aid on his hand and declared that because of it he couldn't hug her. So she hugged him on his legs while he held his hands in the air. Then she announced she had a kiss for him, and she put it on his forearm.

I took her upstairs and we did our bedtime routines and we settled in for our two minutes' snuggle. She grabbed Purple Girl from her germ watch post at the foot of the bed and said Mama, this is Tanya. "She is?" I asked. "I thought you're Tanya." THIS is Tanya. Her name is Tanya Ernie. "Okay, well, two minutes, E and Tanya Ernie."

We snuggled, E, me, and The-Doll-Formerly-Known-as-Purple-Girl, and as I got ready to go I asked her, as I do every night, if I could give her a hug and kiss. Kiss Tanya, Mommy! So I did. Pin It