Touching Children in France.

Did that title grab your attention? It doesn’t mean what you first thought. This post discusses what could be seen as a French Tradition, and starts with the cultural aspect of French people kissing each other. You kiss someone when you meet for the first time, and then you kiss again before leaving. I don’t mind this at all as in my family, that has always been the way. TWO KISSES! What I don’t approve of or promote, however, is my son having to do the same. Something that irks me a little bit is that,

PEOPLE WANT TO TOUCH AND KISS CHILDREN. ALL. THE. TIME.

It’s mainly women, and it often happens on the street. A LOT. Okay, okay. I have a gorgeous looking child. But he’s a person, and he doesn’t know you, nor does he want you touching him let alone kissing him.

At the start of our trip we literally had one lady beg us to kiss Arlo, “just on the hand” and before I had time to realise what she had said and step towards Shane, (who had been baffled by the French she used) it was too late. She sailed in quickly and planted a wet mouth kiss on his delightful little hand, his unprepared brain registering severe distaste before he began shaking his hand and wiping it scornfully. Now, several months later, if Arlo is in the right mood and an elderly lady comes close, watch out biatch. He will use force. I don’t condone violence or my child hitting anybody or anything, but if someone is up in your personal space and you’re uncomfortable but unable to vocalise that, action is apparently the next best thing. Of course I do intervene when I am quick enough, usually by stepping away if he is in my arms and explaining to him that I won’t let him hit.

Once, Arlo and I were watching a man turn on his motorbike (he’s obsessed) when the man crouched down and stroked Arlo’s cheek with a warm-hearted sort of look on his face. He then followed up by suggesting he take Arlo for a ride on this motorbike…ummmm, no thank you monsieur. Au revoir.

These examples are no exaggeration, and sometimes they’re acceptable, but it depends. Sometimes these advances come from beautifully dressed and delightful smelling, grandmotherly figures. Sometimes they stop to chat, sometimes they want to touch, a lot of the time they have advice. They certainly won’t hesitate to let you (the mother of the child) know, that this child is tired. Oh! Is he? Well I never. I wonder who tried for two hours to get him to sleep earlier today!?

I have been a fan of Jennifer Lehr’s book Parent Speak since before Arlo was born. Lehr advocates for letting children know that in fact, they don’t need to endure Uncle Peter’s sloppy kiss and tense arm grab at every family gathering. They need not suffer through someone they don’t know (or do know, for that matter) physically touching them. That, if something like this makes them feel uncomfortable (I know I absolutely faced these situations growing up!) that there are alternatives that can be suitable for both parties. I am teaching Arlo that he need not kiss somebody he doesn’t want to, that instead he could offer a high 5 or a handshake, or a hug if he feels like it. This way the imposing person doesn’t get embarrassed, and the child is not shamed into doing something he doesn’t want to do. At two years old though, we mostly just get a straight “no” for all options. Lol. And as a child who is very affectionate with those close to him, there is obviously some meaning behind his response. At least he knows exactly what he wants!

 

 

Culture Motherhood Travel

Gabrielle Gassin View All →

This blog is a compilation of some of my thoughts and dreams that have marinated for long enough that I can form sentences with them.

I am the mother of one toddler and one pregnant belly, the wife to one man, a friend to many, a sister to two and a daughter. Recently returned from eight months in Europe, having fulfilled a long anticipated dream of living in France.

I like to write about things, and this is the platform for me to share. Any feedback or advice is welcomed so please, get in touch if you so wish.

"If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

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