Is That a Yes or a No?
Profound lessons about freedom and boundaries from bumps, hugs, and beyond
Boundaries established, boundaries pushed, a chat, questions, shouting, more questions, negotiating, more shouting, another chat, hugs, more negotiating, touching each others’ noses, more hugs, verbal expressions of love, rest. Can I touch your nose?
If you have ever known a toddler, you know the dance. My son is that joyful, exhausting dance partner, the last guy on the floor at 3 a.m., the sleepover friend who wants to talk all night. He is the orb that lights up the place. And he hugs strangers. (He is not unlike his mother in this regard.)
When you walk around with him, strangers will be shocked by the hugs. You will mumble things, because my God, we are in a fucking pandemic, don’t touch that/him/her/them/it. Thank God he has learned how to bump fists, and that is thanks to Raf. But bottom line, he mostly runs in for the tackle-hug, and humans do not know what to do with these unbridled expressions of love from a relative stranger. You do not want to undo this kind of thing, necessarily, because he is 3, and this is a sweet instinct. But you also need to teach him about Covid-19, about people needing space, about asking before you touch (like we do with our noses at bedtime). Also, about his Whiteness and his maleness. For these and other reasons, you will be stressed even as you feel proud of his generous spirit.
You will also think about how you grew up, how you felt as a child, who you hugged or didn’t, what behavior was encouraged, what behavior was punished. When you think about this, you will discover that even though there is much for you to teach him, that he is your teacher, too.
About a week ago, he starting asking: Is that a yes or a no? This is a good question, and not one he got from me or his dad. With kids, you learn to recognize: a) the things they come up with themselves; b) the things they pick up from you (whoops?); and c) the things they have adopted from someone else altogether. It’s a bit weird when c happens. It means his tiny little world is expanding. This is sweet, and requires the social math of “What? But how? Is this good? Is this bad? Is it neither?” as you piece it together. You might not be able to figure it out, but you…