I told you no today. You asked me to nurse and I said no. Partially because I was nursing your baby brother, partially because my side hurt from you falling asleep laying on it earlier. Mostly, I said no because I knew you weren’t hungry, you weren’t upset, you weren’t in pain. You just wanted to nurse because I was nursing your brother.
That part of the story is really nothing though. It doesn’t matter why I said no-all that matters is that I did.
And then you did what any self respecting toddler would do. You tried to pull down my top and nurse anyway.
Most days I would have just sighed and turned over, allowing you to nurse because it’s not a fight I want to have as your newborn brother is dozing into nap time. But unfortunately for you, today I spent most my day reading about a disgusting rape trial and a young man who apparently was never told no. Today I tried to read through a woman’s memories of her sexual assault and today, I commented to your father our children will always respect another’s right to say no.
So, unfortunately for you, you got a lesson today. On mama’s right(and anyone else in your life’s right) to say no.
I can see others who would balk at what I’m saying here. To compare a toddler wanting to nurse to a 20 year old who violently assaulted another young adult? That’s a bit of a jump isn’t it?
I believe in teaching my children their right to say no. From hugging family members, to kissing aunties. Sometimes it really sucks. We missed out on a photo with my Princess and her great-great- grandmother last year because Princess didn’t want to be in a photo with a person she barely knew. I didn’t force her. I want my daughter to know her consent to have photographs taken matter. That she should never allow someone to force her into that, and that she should always tell a person no when she is uncomfortable. I don’t care if it’s our neighbor, I don’t care if it’s her teacher, I don’t care if it’s me. My children own their own bodies.
And that’s why, when I told my son no and he still took what he wanted, I flinched today. Yes, he’s only two. Yes, I nurse because I love it. I also made two babies because I love it. I still have the right to tell my husband no when I’m not feeling it.
Like I expect my husband to listen, I expect my son to respect this is mama’s body and I am in charge of what I do with it, where I do it, and when I do it. No, nursing is not sexual. But neither is hugging...and I wouldn’t force him to hug anyone either.
Body autonomy begins in lesson as early as two. I’m sure he will again someday reach to nurse and not listen to my no. My goal of today was not to break the habit of him not listening to no at this very second(Actually that’s my goal for EVERY SINGLE ASPECT of having a toddler, hah!).
My goal though, is to raise a son who knows that “no means no.” I will begin those lessons now. I will teach my children they are in charge of their bodies. I will talk to them openly about sex and make sure they have adults in their lives, their handfuls, who they can always go to.
I will teach my child how to listen to a no. I will teach them that they can not take a person’s body as their own without being handed it explicitly, without them persuading the other into giving it to them. I will teach them that an unconscious person can not say yes and that alcohol always means no.
So, my dear son, I am not sorry I told you no today. I’m not sorry I repeated it, I picked you up and put you in time out for not listening. I’m not sorry for repeating over and over again, “Mommy said no and you need to listen to that.” I am a little sorry if I looked like I was about to cry, because this story hit me hard.
But I am not sorry for saying no and disciplining you when you didn’t listen. I will raise you to be a better person than that. I will raise all you kids to be better people.
And if I fail, I will not be writing a letter of excuse for you.