For Valentine’s Day I surprised my husband with a beautiful tattoo that symbolizes our love and our Christ centered marriage. I got this tattoo on my lower left arm. This was my first arm tattoo, so I was a bit nervous about how it would go with my spasms due to my severe cerebral palsy.
If you have been following me for a while, you know that this is my fourth tattoo. My mom was here again but after she helped us figure out how to strap my arm down tightly, she was able to enjoy watching her daughter get another detailed tattoo.
I feel like I need to write about my tattoo experiences because I know I went searching for other people with severe cerebral palsy who had successfully gotten tattooed when I first made up my mind that I was going to do it. I needed to know that others like me were able to do this. So I am putting my experiences out there for anyone else that is like me and wants tattoos.
Plus, there’s always an element of getting a tattoo that relates to parenting and respecting children which is something I am obviously very passionate about.
For this tattoo, I took the same medications as always for my spasms and we strapped my arm down to my arm rest of my wheelchair in two different places. Then my husband held my hand down quite tightly. My tattoo artist is a miracle worker and did an excellent job! While there was slightly more movement with my arm than my legs, within twenty minutes my body stopped reacting so much to the needles and I was fine.
Since I had to be strapped down and held down again for the tattoo, it got me thinking about respecting children’s bodies and teaching children consent from birth. We’ve all seen it and maybe even have done it. You see a cute baby and just have to touch him/her. But what if the baby really doesn’t want to be touched? This is especially true if you’re a stranger.
Let’s face it. We don’t respect children’s bodies.
Even before they are born, many people think its okay to dismember the baby’s body if the mother doesn’t want the child.
Then after birth, infants are touched, poked, tickled, squeezed, scooped up, gently pinched against their wills.
Then there’s the issue of corporal punishment. Sadly, many pro-spanking advocates tell parents to even sit on the child to spank/hit him/her. Even when children submit to spankings, they are being forced to do so out of fear, guilt, not wanting multiple spankings, and needing acceptance from their parents again. But they really don’t have a choice as they learn that their parents will make them submit.
Even older children are touched by complete, albeit well-meaning, strangers against their wishes.
Here’s a recent story from my dear friend, Meagan Longest, about an experience with her daughter at a store:
“An old man patted Wynnie at the grocery store today. She was holding onto the side of the cart. She looks up at him, almost cries and then runs to me at the back of the cart.
Wynnie: He touch me mom. Whyyyyy?
Me: I know, honey. That’s not okay.
Wynnie: That’s MY body, mommy.
Me: You’re right. It’s your body and no one should touch it without YOUR permission (While giving an evil eye to the old man and his daughter who was starting to get pissed).
I almost lost it.
Moral of the story- start teaching consent at birth. And don’t effing touch a child without their permission.”
Sure, that old man probably didn’t mean any harm, but in today’s world, we just never know. And how would you feel if a stranger patted you out of nowhere?
I guess I understand this more than some people do because well-meaning people get in my personal space and touch me without my consent. Due to my very slurred speech, I can’t just say, “Please don’t hug me.” “Please move out of my face a bit.” It’s very uncomfortable and I just sit there and deal with it so I don’t hurt people’s feelings.
The reality is that we all have the right not to have our personal spaces invaded by anyone without giving our consent. We need to respect each other’s bodies!
You may be asking, “What about needing to restrain children for care and/or medical procedures?” When a child is given shots, I strongly believe that they should be held in their parents’ laps. There’s never a reason to hold a child down on a table for shots. If your pediatrician doesn’t encourage you to hold your children on your lap for shots and even other simple procedures, then please find another doctor.
As far as giving care, if you must hold them against their wills, always talk to them about what you’re doing and why. Validate their feelings. Say, for example, “Oh I know you don’t like me holding you right now but we have to get your diaper changed. Can you help me by lifting your bottom?”
It helps to try and make sure the child is ready for the transition into care. It also helps to be playful about it when you know your child may resist. The key is teaching children that you respect them and always try to wait for their consent before moving forward. Even for newborns, this can be done by telling them before you pick them up and waiting for some clue that they are ready to be picked up. Moving slowly with infants also helps to teach them consent and that we respect them. Please see this post for more information about respecting infants.
As children grow, it’s so important to teach children that no one should ever touch them without their ok. Even people they know should always ask before touching them. It’s just basic respect. We invite people in and out by our body language most of the time, but children are not skilled at this and many adults ignore them anyway, so allowing children to say, “No!” is very, very important!
Also, teaching children to respect others is equally important. Teaching them to not touch someone that doesn’t want to be touched helps them to respect others.
The majority of sexual abuse and assault cases happen with people that children know! This is extremely scary! If children are taught to obey their elders no matter what, it’s really setting them up for potential sexual abuse and assault. We can’t allow this!
If people don’t understand why you are allowing your children to give or not give consent, just explain that you want them to have control over their own bodies. Tell them that you don’t just let people touch you, so why should children have to allow people to touch them when they don’t want anyone to touch them?
Children are human beings and deserve respect. I consented to being strapped down for tattoos, children should have the power to consent to being touched. It’s about respecting each other’s bodies and personal space no matter what the age is.