6 yo GS #2 has “tickle days” and “non-tickle days.” He used to make out calendars for us, the ticklers, and mark the days when tickling was allowed with big X’s. It was great! We, the ticklers, got 2, 3 maybe 4 days a week. It varied according to his whims. But lately he has turned to prescheduled days. Only Tuesdays and Saturdays are “tickle days” now and that’s it. If you aren’t around on a Tuesday or a Saturday, I’m sorry, you are out of luck. No changes allowed. No bargaining, no reasoning, no bribing. And if the Tickle Monster (which happens to be my right hand) should make an unscheduled appearance, there are no exceptions for royalty either. Sorry Tickle Monster, maybe next week!
When he says it’s a “no tickle day,” it”s a “no tickle day.” And really that’s okay. He does have the right to decide when adult touching is no longer fun or comfortable. In fact, I believe all children have that right to say when “no tickling” or other adult touching is not allowed. Don’t misunderstand me. This boy loves a good tickle fest and giggles hilariously when chased by Tickle Monster. But when enough is enough and he says so, it stops. And it should stop for every child.
My niece (bless her sweet little heart) can tell you what happens to a child when the right to say “stop” is taken away. She was mentally and emotionally tortured by her mother and sexually attacked routinely by her father from toddlerhood to her teen years. She had no childhood and so never learned many things we all take for granted that everyone knows.
She’s been in therapy for several years and can tell you the impact the abuse has had on every decision she has ever made. She can tell you the impact it still has on her marriage, her self-image, her self-worth, her ability to take risks. At age 40 she is still trying to learn about love, hate, forgiveness, revenge, trusting, blame, fear, truth and on it goes.
She can tell you how hard it has been and how it feels as though it will never end. I can tell you I love her and think she is very brave. She stopped the abuse with her and vowed it would never touch her children. And it has not. That cost her the only family she knew at the time.
It wasn’t a real family but she did not realize it then. She now has us and we are a real family. She doesn’t miss any part of what she gave up. What strength my niece has, I can’t even tell you! And she continues to work at battling the demons that so-called “family” had her believing.
So don’t think for one minute that little ones will forget or “get over” mistreatment from adults. They don’t. They have a keen sense of fairness, right and wrong, what feels good, what feels uncomfortable, what adults should do to/with children and what they should not. They know when it most definitely is NOT a “tickle day” and they have the inborn right to say so.
We must honor that. We must show them we care for them MORE than we care for ourselves or our wants. There are lots of ways to have fun with children and violating their personal space or integrity is not among them.