Uncomfortable Necessities: Talking Private Parts & Saying NO! to a 4 Year Old
“And you know if anyone touches you here, to tell Mommy or Daddy, right?” I asked Kennedy, feeling uncomfortable in my own skin, talking to her about something so vile and obscene, that I honestly could have cried.
But this conversation, sparked this time during a post-beach shower, was the second time this week it had come up. Passing comments from my daughter, regarding her space, unwanted attention from a male friend and a new found interest in the human body, made talks about touching, private parts and harassment a timely, yet difficult, conversation to be had. Coupled with the fact that Kennedy was starting at a “preschool” 2 days a week, away from my watchful eye, made it more relevant and necessary than ever before.
Some of you may think I’m crazy, or in disbelief that I’m even talking about my 4 year old’s privates publicly… and yet some of you, have probably been raped or touched or harassed so young that you understand the filthy necessity to talk about it.
And talk TO HER about it.
Not in a way that scares her. But in a way that SUPPORTS HER. And INFORMS HER.
Like talking about having and respecting our own… and other’s… personal space. Not just her private areas, but literally the space around her. That she is free to say “I need room” or “please don’t hang all over me.”
And in teaching her the sanctity of her private areas, something that is natural and curious, but hers alone.
And by using real words, like PENIS and VAGINA. Teaching her about the human body… her body. Not just WHERE it is, but WHAT it is.
And most importantly, giving her the power to say “NO!” NO! if you do not want to be hugged that way, NO! if you do not want to be kissed and NO! if you are feeling uncomfortable.
And unfortunately, teaching her what happens if someone doesn’t listen after she’s said NO! With a sour sickness in my stomach that I barely kept down, I talked in the car with my daughter later that day, about keeping secrets. That there are no secrets between Mommy, Daddy and Kennedy. And if someone says “this is between just us,” to tell us.
The reality of today is that most of us will know someone that has been sexually assaulted in their lifetime… if it wasn’t to you personally. Boys and girls alike, need to understand from a young age the power of their personal space and the ability to speak up if something feels wrong.
Though I was never raped, I was a magnet for sexual predators throughout my youth. With a body that developed early and an aptitude for being mouthy, I probably seemed beyond my years. Yet, men who still knew my age, tried to make passes or push the boundaries with me. A police officer at our middle school, who was later convicted of trying to solicit sex from an underage male and a school friend’s father, who thought I was “more adventurous” than the rest of his daughter’s friends.
What could have been the difference between standing strong against them or falling for their ploys, was the strength and guidance my parents gave me from a young age. The understanding of what is and is not appropriate… and the support of knowing I could go to them, even as they paled in sadness and shock upon finding out.
Is 4 too young to start talking about touching? Or saying NO!? Or vaginas? Unfortunately not. We have been talking to Kennedy about protecting her privates well before she was 4 and will continue having conversations with her. It’s not something I ever want to crudely bring up, but when the moment makes itself available, I will use it to explain things she may not understand. Moments like a post- beach shower or her mentioning that a friend doesn’t give her enough space. These are the moments we need to take a deep breath and use to teach our kids.
Hopefully, by talking about the difficult issues now, we eventually don’t have to talk about harassment or rape later. By fortifying our children with the knowledge, strength and compassion for one another, I pray that one day our little boys and little girls turn into young men and young ladies who respect one another and their bodies. That days of worrying if your dress is too short, that it may “incite” someone’s sexual rage or even that a boy is too ashamed to talk about being touched by an adult, will be days of the past.
I am not naïve enough to think that sexual assault will go away entirely. Predators are out there and always will be. Even worse, is that so commonly, it is a family member or adult that you are meant to trust. But I do know that my words to her now, can be a voice in her ear later, and it is up to me to make that a guiding voice for the rest of her life.
A voice that says “you can say NO!”
A voice that says “you can leave if this feels wrong.”
And a voice that says “you can come to me for help.”
Don’t Forget To Smile, Krysta