Recently some friends of mine brought up concerns they had about a photo project I was doing that involved my children as well as friends’ children.
Considering I hold these folks’ opinions in the highest regard, I stepped back and took a harder look at the project. The photos themselves weren’t sexually explicit in any way, but the idea I had for one shot was heading into the “do I really want to go there with my child?” direction. I completely changed the focus of this one shot from the child to the parent and it helped in really tying together the whole project. I presented the theme back to my friends, and they both seemed satisfied with the change, and the fact that I heard their criticism. (Sorry, I won’t give specific details about the project until it’s done).
The experience made me think about the boundaries we have with our children. There no hard and fast rule to these things, but everyone has an opinion as to when someone crosses the line, including me.
Can Grandma have a hug? Well, if my kid says “no,” then I’m afraid it’s no. Am I teaching my children to have ownership of their own bodies, or am I being teaching them to be disrespectful to their elders? (Hint: I think it’s the former.)
As parents, it’s up to us to learn our children’s signals. I know a lot of us, including myself, joke about the “therapy jar,” but we need to do our part to keep our children safe, happy, and healthy.
It’s about seeing your children as individuals with their own feelings. It sounds basic, but we tend to be dismissive with kids because they’re so young. However, I gotta tell you. They’re born with the sense that something’s bad or wrong. It’s up to us as parents to interpret that sense as a real threat (the creepy, grabby uncle) or an imagined (monsters in the closet).
I don’t expect to be right all the time, but I hope to not be damaging. Most importantly, I expect to listen to my kids. They are the ones who know best what’s going on with themselves. All we have to do is pay attention.