I have always thought that my kids understood that they NEVER have to put up with someone making them feel uncomfortable. I am not the mom who requires hugs if they don't want to give a hug. We have talked about physical boundaries ad nauseum--perhaps in part because it is hard for my oldest to understand that concept.
Yet several weeks ago, my most vocal of children sat silently while someone made her feel uncomfortable. I took my kids to the library to see a mobile planetarium show. We were all excited to get our tickets and squeezed into the room sized inflatable where the show would take place. If you have never been in one picture a giant round bounce house that has no windows and floor and you have the ambiance to a T!
There were quite a few adults sans kids who wanted to see this show. I had deliberately picked the more mature showing as opposed to the toddler one with singing and such. I wanted the actual science experience for my kids as they are fairly savvy on this subject.
As more and more people began to squeeze in, the space began to become more crowded. The fellow running it used a laser pointer so we could see and asked that the front row slide as far forward as possible to allow the last people to enter and have room. I obediently slid forward. KC and Lissa and Rob were just behind me. I looked back and saw that their row had sort of slid back against the far wall. I could still see everyone. It was literally less than 5 feet away.
The show was amazing and all I heard about all day were the constellations, the planets and the way they showed the different stars in different hemispheres. Right up till bed time when I walked in to gather kids for bed and KC looked at me and said "why did you leave us at the Planetarium/' I explained that I never left them and that I was right there the whole time. That he when he said that Lissa needed to tell me something that she had just told him.
Apparently the man who was sitting next to my daughter was physically closer to my daughter than she was comfortable with. (she said he kept putting his leg on her, though it is not clear if that means his leg bumped her or whether it was over her. He also spoke to her several times and said things that she felt were weird and made her uncomfortable. When she quoted what he said, it was "what did you do today." The words are 'harmless' but I believe strongly that when something makes you feel that something is not right there is a reason for it and one should heed that feeling.
It is pretty clear from lots of calm talking (well calm on the outside) that she was not molested. The 3 kids moved away from the guy as far as they could, though Lissa did not tell her brothers either why she wanted to move. Because she did not say anything to me, I am left not knowing if this was simply a grown up who was not real comfortable sitting on the floor and accidently bumped her, or if in other circumstances, something darker could have resulted.
What IS clear was what shocked me the most. My daughter was silent for this whole event. My outspoken, strong opinionated princess lost her voice when an adult invaded her space. The upside of this is that we talked a lot about how I would totally have been fine, if she had stood up in the middle of the show and said "stay out of my space" or said "I need to change my seat," or just walked over people to get to my lap. We talked about when something just doesn't feel right, that it is important to get out of the situation,even if you don't know exactly why.
I read a great article this morning about how important it is to use the correct words for all body party, including "private" parts. I have always done that. But I always thought I had given my kids, and most expecially my daughter the strength to leave a situation they felt was unsafe. Clearly this is not so and I have more important work to do in this regard.