Her blonde curls unfurled behind her as she chased her little neighbor friend across the field. All eight years of her pumped those legs to catch up with all three years of her little friend.
And, when she did catch up?
“I’m gonna get you! I’m gonna tickle you silly,” she kept saying, to the delighted cries of the neighbor.
My Sweetgirl gently tickled and chased, causing the newly three-year old fits of laughter. There was more glee to behold in the scene than my heart could take in.
But, I did.
Then, I waited…
For the right moment to have that uncomfortable conversation with my precious child, who meant only good. I’m talking about the reality that tickles can also be bad. And that, to be appropriate, you must always ask first.
“But, it ruins the moment, mama,” she insisted!
This is where #parentingishard. It’s in these joyful moments that you are loath to interrupt, that you realize you must.
I didn’t want to. And I most certainly wish I didn’t have to.
But, touching varies radically from family to family. Respecting that fact means asking first. I had to convey this to my sweet one without dulling the beauty of a precious interaction. An interaction that happens not only amongst her and her friends, but also within family.
And it hit me – this is where the lines get crossed. Or not.
These are the conversations that can allow fear to skyrocket if not handled delicately. But, at the same time, I want her to know that if anyone tickles her, and it makes her uncomfortable, we are a family who talks together. All the time. About everything.
Even uncomfortable tickling.
So, if you find yourself in a situation that requires some gentle conversation about appropriate touching, here are a few things that I found helpful. Hopefully, you will too:
- Watch for cues. As we were talking, she mentioned that when I tickle her, it sometimes hurts because I tickled “too hard under my armpits”. WOW! I had no idea. Just talking about this opened up the opportunity for me to apologize and acknowledge that she didn’t like that. It also helped me use language she was using as I forged on with my harder points.
- Keep it simple. I chose to wait until this age to have this conversation. You, or families you know, may choose to do it at an earlier age. Or, a later one. My goal was to make sure my child understood that asking first also meant respecting any form of “no thank you”. And, again, I used the language my daughter used. “Friends”, “family”, “appropriate” “tickling”, “hurt”, “uncomfortable”, “like”, and “secrets” were all worked into our conversation.
- Allow for questions. This one was hard. Because, when you open up this can of worms, sometimes they stay in their nice round can, and sometimes they come out in every direction. Our conversation? There were no shoving those worms back in the can! So, I just let the questions roll in. And, some of my more brilliant answers included the words, “Maybe” and “Sometimes” and even “I’m not sure”. I hope it’s obvious that I didn’t have all the answers. And I thought it was important for my Sweetgirl to know that while I will always accept any question, I might not always have an immediate answer.
Is this a hard topic to tackle? Yes. Yes it is.
But worth it.