Tuesday, August 18, 2009

You Can Insist Upon An Apology, But You Shouldn't Insist Upon A Hug

AAG discusses childrearing in The Problem With Politeness -- which I found incredibly fascinating not only because the middle child eschews hugs (and most signs of physical affection; she does not like to be touched at all), or because of my firm belief in children & adults being allowed to assert their own boundaries, but because of the uproar in responses. In case you don't want to go to Babeland's blog, here's the gist of what AAG had to say about the aftermath of her two kids bumping heads & her daughter's refusal to accept an apologetic hug from her son:
[My mother] spoke my daughter’s name. “You have to accept his hug,” she scolded. “If someone wants to hug you it’s not polite to refuse. They’ll feel bad.”

...It would probably have been altogether forgotten by the children but I couldn’t let the matter rest. “You know what grandma said today?” I asked on the way home. “About hugs?”

She barely looked up from her book to grunt but I carried on. “I don’t agree with her. At all. If you don’t want to hug someone you shouldn’t, period. It doesn’t matter if they feel bad. You never have to touch someone in any way unless you really want to. Ok?”

The book was so interesting that she couldn’t tear her eyes away from it. “I know, Mom,” she managed to answer. “You’ve told me so many times. Why did grandma say that?”

Grandma’s always said that, I thought to myself. My absolute terror of being thought rude or of hurting someone’s feelings was one reason I found it so difficult to ward off unwanted contact, both sexual and otherwise, well into adulthood.

My children will be prepared for a different world, one where they neither have to bend to guilt-based pressure nor feel especially hurt when their advances are rebuffed. And if someone else finds their behavior rude?

Too stinkin’ bad.

While I do feel for the boy whose hug was refused, I don't see either A), how a person can be forced to physically accept an apology (especially in the heat of the after-moment), or B) how a person should be forced to accept physical contact period. But again, the comment section is full of people who disagree.

In order to read all the conversation, you'll need to visit Babeland's blog -- but honestly, there's nothing graphic at this post.
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