Sometime last year, I went to pick up my daughter from school and the child that walked out from the school gates, flung her bag into the car and threw herself after it with so much venom, was not the Small Madam that I knew.
I know that growing up, we didn’t have moods or maybe we did have moods but because we were meant to be seen and not heard, nobody cared either way.
So we learnt to keep our moods to ourselves and hardly ever shared anything with our “different parenting styles” parents – but this generation of kids, they were designed to be both seen and heard.
It is always an experiment parenting my daughter, I’ll be the first to admit that but as I get to understand her better, I know that when she is in a stroppy mood is the time to form unconcerned. One drop of attention, and we would need to invite the National Emergency Management Agency to help us out of a flooded car.
She will weep enough tears to keep Nigeria’s electricity turbines going.
Lord have mercy, she was already shedding tears, you would need an umbrella, a rain coat, galoshes and a wack sense of humor to calm the storm.
Since this was one of the “no tears, stroppy” moods, I let her stew in it for a few minutes before asking what was up.
Well, it turned out that as my daughter left the class, one of her classmates had ambushed her, grabbed her and kissed her.
*whistling silently to myself*
I had one of two options, drive back to the school and create a scene with the parents and school authorities, or let my daughter handle this with my guidance and support.
No, I didn’t ask her why he thought he could kiss her or what she did that made him feel it was okay to kiss her – all that was pretty immaterial to me.
The young lady in the backseat of my car obviously did not want to be kissed, but she had received a kiss anyway.
And it is telling that in a school where the students kiss themselves hello and goodbye; we the parents kiss ourselves hello and goodbye; ditto the staff etc..
that she was agitated about this one “invasion”, for want of a better word.
I asked her what she felt about the kiss and the inevitable tears poured as she explained that she didn’t know why she should be held and kissed full on, on the lips, by a boy she had not given permission to kiss her.
Good. So did you tell him you didn’t want the kiss and did not like the fact that he just grabbed you and kissed you without your consent?
No, he ran away before she could say a word.
So, part of the anger and frustrations she felt, was that she was kissed without her consent, and she was powerless to do anything about it as the kiss thief had vanished into thin air, as mysteriously as he had appeared.
We did talk about it all the way home, and more when we got home.
There would be no need boring you with details of all we said, but my daughter already understands fully well the concepts of consent, rape and consensual sexual relationships.
So the next day, I dropped her off at school, not in the least worried in anyway, and when I came to pick her, there was a shamefaced little boy shuffling his feet alongside her and apologizing for touching her without her consent.
She had given him a good ticking off and tutored him on why his hands should be kept to himself and his lips should not so much as come near a girl who had not asked first to be kissed.
I was proud of her, believe me.
My daughter actually is very outspoken, she had once walked up to an adult who she had heard describing her to another adult as “that fat girl”, and given him a telling off.
I knew that happened because once again, the adult brought himself to me, amazed that a little child could have been that bold, and apologized for speaking the way he did about her.
In my opinion, the evil in taking things without consent, is the breach of personal space.
Here I am in my own little circle, and there you are in yours.
If you need to cross over from your circle to mine, you need to ask. As nicely as you possibly can. And if I say no, then you would need to respect that.
Don’t take by force, don’t take by surprise.
Sometimes the trauma is not from the physical invasion, but from the fact that someone actually dared to breach a personal space.
It breeds paranoia.
It breeds self loathing – could it have been me? Was there something I did perhaps to attract this? Is there something I could have done differently to prevent this? Why me?
It messes up the mind.
Back in my university days, a big friend had handed over his younger sister to my care. She had this fragile look about her and even though she talked and acted tough, was also extremely vulnerable and jumpy about certain things.
Like our shortcut through the boys’ hostel for instance.
There was this break in the fence at a few “strategic” spots so instead of going all the way around the male hostel to get to the campus North Gate, we would duck through the hole in the fence, walk across the hostel, and duck out the hole in the fence on the other side.
But every time I tried to drag her along this route with me, she would protest and fight every step of the way. She would be extremely jumpy and would actually run some part of the way through the hostel.
So one day I asked her what was up with that.
And she told me a story of how she had come looking for her brothers a year earlier, matter of fact, that was the incident that had precipitated her “hand over” to me; and as she ducked through that hole in the fence to cut her journey shorter, one of the doors on the ground floor of the hostel had opened, a hand had sneaked out, and the owner of that hand had dragged her into that room…
She was repeatedly raped by that character.
Remember I told you this girl was a little wisp of a thing, she was and looked fragile.
She only escaped when she lied to her rapist that she had a venereal disease.
Apparently the idiot did not want to catch a venereal disease, while he was destroying an innocent human’s body and mind, without their consent.
So he impatiently supervised her hurried dressing up, and kicked her out of the room.
She returned to the room with her brothers, but the room was uninhabited. There was just that one mattress in the corner. No, she did not get any counseling or help after that trauma, not even clinical help.
Because she fell pregnant from that incident, her brothers were convinced she was lying. That she had had a tryst with her boyfriend and was making up stories to cover up.
It wasn’t until the day we were strolling around campus – her, her elder brothers and I, and I stopped to greet a friend and witnessed this girl go into shock and start hyperventilating at the sight of my “friend”, that the mystery behind the rapist was unveiled.
When the campus security eventually arrived to rescue him from sure death at the hands of her brothers, and locked him away for his own safety; other girls began to come out with stories of similar stunts he had been pulling.
Like a wild he-goat, he had been raping girls willy nilly all over campus.
We followed up the case as best we could, and he eventually got rusticated from the school.
It is easy to blame a woman for an act of sexual violation.
What did she do?
How did she dress?
He is a man, you cannot expect him to be stimulated and not rise to the occasion.
I’d say yes to the stimulus bit, but only if we were talking about a male goat or dog perhaps.
Not a human who has enough sense to control himself from walking in front of a moving truck and ridding the world of his presence – I mean the thought of not having a care in the world is stimulating too if you stop to think about it.
But these things start when a child is not reprimanded when he steps out of line. Is not taught what is right and what is wrong. Is given the impression that some things can be said as a joke and we should all lighten up and not take so many things so seriously.
Ha ha ha… not funny.
Speak with your children – nieces, nephews, cousins, siblings and wards – and drum it into their consciousness NOW, that there are certain things that should never be taken for granted.
Violating another person’s personal space is one of them.
Don’t laugh when they grab a girl their age and kiss her.
Let them know that that is inappropriate sexual behavior and if they were adults, could get slammed with an assault charge or worse (well, except of course if they were Donald Trump. THEN it could be excused away as locker room behavior and they could still be in with a chance of being the President of the free world).
Nip any instances of children trying to take advantage of others in the bud – you would be helping raise adults who know that “no” means “no”, and not “try harder”.
Talk to your children about sexual assault and what constitutes rape.
We talk a lot to the girl child about so many things, who is talking to the boy child?
Who is telling him what does and does not constitute appropriate behavior and about respecting the boundaries and personal spaces of others?
Who is teaching him that rape is nothing to be joked about and that the spaces of the girls around them must be respected and protected at all times.
If you are a father of boys (or a boy), you cannot blame society or peer pressure or even the devil himself for any future failings your child exhibit.
Pursue the devil now by talking to your boys.
Draw them close to you.
Encourage them to be free with you.
And most important of all, ensure you teach them to respect the personal spaces of their friends and acquaintances.
Let them see it in YOUR own thoughts and words and actions.
Do not joke about grievous situations that ruin other people for life.
Don’t laugh at Basket Mouth inspired rape jokes; or jokes that endorse taking sex by force from unwilling partners.
Don’t joke with rape and assault, they are not laughing matters, believe me.
And let them know that where consent is not given – assault and rape is just the case.