I’ve been practicing exactly what to say, reviewing my lines with multiple people in my life. Apparently I haven’t practiced enough.
Mini G and I were in Costco last nite. We had made it thru the store without it happening, not even coming close. So I wasn’t on guard because the dreaded wasn’t even on my mind. We sampled our way thru the store, happy to have lots of food items to try as I shopped our short list. We made it to the register. There were no long lines. I’d been worried about taking her after a full day of daycare, but everything was lining up perfectly.
I left Mini G seated in the cart and walked around the grocery belt. An employee, you know the one they make go around and ask people if they’re an Executive Member, came up to her. I should’ve perked up immediately, but we hadn’t had any incidents earlier. Not even close to it. We haven’t had one for almost 2 wks. I simply wasn’t on guard. The employee, a woman, was talking to Mini G. Standing too close. Then she reached out and touched her hair. Ruffled it. Mini G sat there, looking at her.
My finger came wagging across the belt toward the lady. A voice inside was urging me to walk around, stand much too close to the employee and ruffle up her hair so she could see how it felt! I refrained, feeling the muscles right below my temples tense up. I kept my voice lowered to tell my body to calm down and not go into fight mode. I said, ‘Please don’t do that,’ my finger swiping the air. I continued on, ‘Don’t touch her. She doesn’t know you.’
The woman looked dumbfounded, so I continued on. ‘She doesn’t know you. I don’t want her to think it’s ok for someone she doesn’t know to touch her.’
Too many danggone words. The whole scene felt like slow motion and none of the sentences I’d carefully practiced with my mom, my sister, my 2 friends came into my mind at the moment. Strangers touching my daughter’s hair has happened multiple times and I’ve asked for advice on what to say. Mini G is a sponge. Also, she’s very much into mimicking me right now and constantly asks, ‘Mommy, why did you say shoot?’ The other day she asked George, ‘Why did you breathe out hard, Dad?’ lol The last thing I want to do at this age is display aggression against someone, in front of her. So I made a point to review & try to keep in mind the 2 lines I felt would be stern, but keep the general peace as I let people know it’s inappropriate to touch my daughter’s hair. Alas, I never remember them when I need to. I can’t even tell you what they are now. I feel a very primal response when people touch my child. I wish I’d just followed instinct and ruffled the woman’s hair. That’s how I’ve felt each time it has happened.
When I was pregnant, I got very irritated when people felt like they could just touch me without asking. I wasn’t carrying a basketball. That was my body they were touching, but of course they couldn’t or didn’t want to see it that way. I learned to communicate body language making it clear not to touch. My daughter doesn’t know how to protect her personal space in that way just yet. She doesn’t know how to say no, please don’t do that to complete strangers. She doesn’t know to move out of the way if she doesn’t like someone touching her hair. I hate that this seems to happen in one of the few moments I let her more than 3 feet away from me in a public place. I realized that people usually don’t get too close her her if I’m already there. So when it’s happened, I feel like I’ve failed her by not protecting her in the first place. I hated that she was trapped in that cart and felt unable to move.
Over the years, I’ve felt like I give off an invisible air requiring people to keep a safe, unloving distance. I’m not the one people rush up to hug, until they get to know me. I’ve been told I seem like I want to be alone and that is sometimes true — as it is for everyone — but definitely not always. I need people and want to connect. My experience, in that regard, is whole different topic to dissect, but the takeaway is that I don’t want my ‘air’ to rub off on her. I don’t want Mini to give off the air that she doesn’t want people to connect with her physically or emotionally as a result of how I behave. I feel the cost of this ‘air’ has been a little less love — in some ways — in my life. But until she can decide what level she wants to be physical with acquaintances and friends, I have to protect her. In the car, I asked if she liked when the lady touched her hair and she said no. I told her it’s ok to say no or please stop. She corrects someone if they call her a nickname. She tells them her full name. (love it!) I’m hoping she will learn to speak up and tell people to keep the hands the hell out of her hair. Without cursing, of course.
In the meantime, I worry about my response to these situations in this age of YouTube. George & I have discussed it a few times. He hasn’t had the same experience as I have taking her out solo. I got the impression he thought my mention of YouTube was an ego thing on my part. I felt like I didn’t effectively communicate my full thinking until this latest incident. We’ve all seen videos uploaded to YouTube by a stranger within minutes of a titillating event occurring. It can be picked by the news before the police have a chance to arrive. When people have touched my daughter’s hair, I get very reactionary. My strongest desire is to physically touch the person just as they did my daughter. Not hit them. Just ruffle their hair or stand in their personal space. However, I have no idea how they will react. Plus, I can just see it coming across like I’m the aggressor, the one attacking someone unprovoked. Caught on camera. Local mom loses it on aisle 5. What sent her into a fit of rage…full story — with video! — at the top of the hour. Only it won’t be a full story. I’ll be a snippet of someone’s video that they started recording halfway into the incident. I’ll be convicted in a public court of opinion before the news story is done.
Sound over the top? Yes, it’s my imagination taking a short thought and fleshing it into a full story, but let me share this. If you’ve seen at least one of his reviews, you know George is white. Last year, we were at Target and our Boss started having a fit. Yep, the sweet little Mini. So he proceeded to take her out the store, carrying her. At first I didn’t follow, but could hear her saying Mama, Mama, crying all the while. I kept hearing her, so I decided to go after them and when I caught up, George was pissed. He’s not visibly ragey like I feel I must look at times. I know his face, though and asked what happened. Well, when he was heading toward the door, a woman stopped and asked was she his child. It made sense to me. A woman saw Mini crying for her mom and I’m sure the look on George’s face wasn’t one of a patient dad. And even if he did look relaxed and happy, the woman thought he was a kidnapper. A security guard came right over and asked if Mini was his child and, of course George said yes. But what if the security guard wasn’t in the mood to ask questions? He could’ve tried grabbing Mini, thinking he was rescuing her and who the hell else knows what might’ve happened. Or he could’ve been detained, having to prove that he was her father. She doesn’t have i.d. If I wasn’t at the store and/or couldn’t be reached, then what? I laughed when George told me the story, which made him even more irritated. I focused on the fact that it was good that Target security didn’t just let him walk out the door. However, according to George, the security guard didn’t believe he statement that was the father until I showed up. Nevertheless, I found it funny because I’ve never had anyone question — out loud, anyway — whether I’m her mother. It wasn’t so funny later when I wondered what would’ve happened if I hadn’t showed up to join them. With all of the snap judgements we make about one another combined with everyone being a little on the edge in some way, I want to play it safe when trying to school someone on why it’s completely unacceptable to touch my daughter.
If you ever want to reach out and touch a child that you don’t know, don’t. Don’t. Period. You’re the adult. Control yourself. And even if you know the child, think about his or her personal space. Kids are not animals in a petting zoo. Would you reach out pet a dog or cat in the first 2 minutes of seeing it? Do you want someone coming up and touching one of your body parts, even if it’s ‘just hair.’ Many parents are trying to teach their children to protect themselves. Who to trust. Who not to trust. A child shouldn’t have to let a stranger or anyone else touch them just because the person is curious. Particularly if the curious one is an adult. Back off. Keep your space. Admire. Give a compliment.
But do not touch! Because there’s a good chance I’ll still forget my lines.