Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Honoring Boundaries

Are boundaries an issue for you? They have been for me in ways I never imagined. I always thought I was pretty good at putting people in their place, but I was wrong. There are those moments when caught unaware that make me terribly uncomfortable and I don't quite know how to say no. They aren't life or death situations, just moments when I don't want to be rude, so I find myself in uncomfortable situations. I once read a random article about a woman who had been raped. She said, she knew the minute she answered her door that something wasn't right and she should have just slammed the door on the man who was standing before her, but she didn't want to be rude, so she said, "Yes? How can I help you?" That was enough time for the assailant to push his way into her apartment and rape her. The moment I read that, I thought about moments that I had felt uncomfortable and had not spoken out loud and clear. A moment when someone made an unkind remark about someone and I didn't speak out. A moment when I waited patiently for someone to finish their pitch even though I knew from the get go I wasn't interested. Moments of wasted time and energy. Moments of silence for the sake of not being rude or not getting involved. Moments when I wasn't honoring my personal boundaries.

Today I was challenged to honor my son's reaction to his boundaries being crossed. My reaction gave me pause, but luckily because I've been trying to parent mindfully, I was able to redeem myself and honor his decisions. Today a girl kissed my boy. A girl he didn't want to kiss. She told him she was going to kiss him and he said, "DON'T!" He said it loudly and I heard him clearly. She kissed him anyway. He screamed like he was being murdered. Seriously, I've only heard him scream so loudly when he has night terrors.

My gut reactions were the following:
  1. My goodness, there are worse things then getting kissed by a girl!
  2. He is totally OVER-reacting to this situation.
  3. I was a bit embarrassed by the screaming.
Then I stopped the insipid chatter in my head. I asked what happened and in between sobs my son said, "She KISSED ME! Even after I had told her not too! She didn't listen to me! I realized that it may seem silly to me, but he viewed it as a violation and it was. Not to say that this girl violated my son in a sexual way, she kissed him because she likes him and it was an innocent moment. That's not the point. The point is that he stated emphatically that he did not want to be kissed and she didn't honor his request. So I thought about how I would feel if the situation was different. What if it was my teenage daughter coming home in tears because a boy had kissed her even after she had made it clear that she did not want to be kissed? What would I teach my son, if I said, "You need to stop screaming. It's not a big deal." Is that really the message I want to give my boy, my girl? No.

I brought my son inside and hugged him. I told him I was sorry that this girl didn't listen to him. I told him I was proud of him for standing his ground and I told him he should always react loudly when he feels something is not right. Then I brought the little girl in and explained that even if you really, really like someone, it's not okay to go around kissing people if they said they don't want a kiss. I told her it wasn't okay for her to be kissed if she didn't want a kiss and it's not okay for her to kiss someone who doesn't want to be kissed. She apologized to my son and they went off on their merry way to play pirates and all was well.

I however kept thinking about moments when my boundaries had been crossed. I thought about times that perhaps I crossed someones boundaries, but I was never told how uncomfortable this made someone feel and I wondered why we are so dishonest with ourselves. What are we afraid of? I'm glad I stopped myself today before I told my son to stop overracting. I'm glad I'm trying to raise my kids to listen to their inner voice and to speak out if they feel uncomfortable.

What are your biggest boundary issues? How do you handle them? How do you teach your kids about boundaries?