NYT: Social stigma against touching older children - Mothering Forums

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Old 12-10-2005, 01:03 PM - Thread Starter
 
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This New York Times article is one mom's reflections on the social pressure she feels not to touch/caress her ten-year-old son in public.

I am nowhere near having a ten-year-old, but I found this article really sad. Do you feel this pressure to control the ways you express affection to older children? How do you feel about that?
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Old 12-10-2005, 01:27 PM
 
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Wow...the end made me really sad...I'm nearly in tears. I don't know what to think.

I figure I'll hug and love on my kids until they don't want me to anymore. I never have been one to submit to social norms. My mom still rubs my hair or my back in public and I'm 21, she does the same with my brothers...and she let my one brother mess with her hair until he was 9 (it annoyed her because she ended up with split ends on that patch of hair, but she let him) My 9 y/o brother still gives me hugs in public and tells me he loves me and that I'm his favorite sister

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Old 12-10-2005, 01:47 PM
 
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What are we coming to as a society? My big kids love to be touched and although they don't always ask, they will sidle up next to me to recieve what I feel is my automatic physical affection. My hubby calls it my "chimp gene", but I love to touch heads, stroke hair, ears or arms, I love to give and recieve shoulder rubs and have my hair brushed.
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Old 12-10-2005, 03:00 PM
 
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I was so sad to read that. I couldn't believe that she did that to her kids. The shaming was just awful.

Who cares what some old biddy at the bus stop says! Someone is always going to say something no matter what you do.
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Old 12-10-2005, 03:54 PM
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My parents never touched us. I didn't miss it because it was what I was used to. But I am the complete opposite with Simon. I hope that our affections will continue when he's older. Dh's parents are affectionate with him. I love seeing affection between parents and children. Rather than taking it as a sign of anything sinister (unless it was actually creepy, which I have never seen), I find it very heart-warming and reassuring, whatever the age of the child. I actually feel a little warmer about it when the children are grown. To me that's a sign of a healthy relationship.
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Old 12-10-2005, 04:02 PM
 
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I try and be as affectionate with my boys as they'll let me- I usually get pushed away! I don't remember my parents ever being affectionate to me so I think part of me craves that physical contact.
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Old 12-10-2005, 05:07 PM
 
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Wow. My 14 year old son, and my 12 year old daughter still hug me, kiss me, and hold my hand in public.

"The true measure of a man is how he treats a man who can do him absolutely no good."
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Old 12-10-2005, 05:08 PM
 
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Wow, what a sad article

I honesty can not imagine myself feeling that way about being affectionate with my DS at any age. My mom was always really physically affectionate with me, actually, she still is very affectionate with me and I’m 22!

As for what other people think or say, I really couldn’t care less. I figure that they’re just peeved because they never got the affection that they needed, which is sad, but it isn't my problem and I certainly won't push my son away because of someone else's issues.

My son is still little but oh man am I dreading the day he tells me “stop mom, you’re embarrassing me” as I try to smother him with love :

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Old 12-10-2005, 05:13 PM
 
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Maybe just b/c we're in a different area, but I don't see that as an issue here at all. Sure, I see lots of boys that age + who receive no phys. attachment but I also see lots of my friends kids/boys who do.

Kind of funny, my friends had ds1 while ds2 was born. THey all came over right afterwards and their 11 y.o. son sat right on the bed w/everyone else and cheered on ds2 learning to nurse. There's just nothing in his world to suggest that families and nursing and touch is "weird."

So, yep, sad article to bear in mind.
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Old 12-10-2005, 05:27 PM
 
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That is sad, a lot of it is cultural like the woman in the article said. My husband is Ukrainian and even though me and his grandma can't communicate (she speaks no English, my Ukrainian is limited to saying "thank you for the delicoius meal" lol) she gives me huge hugs and kisses every time I see her. Same with his mom and stepdad. Showing affection in public for them is no big deal. My parents were never overly affectionate, but even through high school with my friends there, I never felt weird about giving them a hug and kiss when I left and saying "I love you". I really hope my daughter isn't ashamed of our love for each other when she gets older, although I still have quite some time before I have to worry about that, shes just about 4 weeks now
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Old 12-10-2005, 06:17 PM
 
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I dont think it is so much a social cultural thing, and I dont think it was purely social pressure that made her do this.
I also dont think there is any effort made to force ourselves to behave differently to our children physically as they grow older.
I still kiss and caress and touch my 13 year old daughter. BUt there was an age when she was to big to tackle me, or her butt was too bony to sit on my lap without it being painful and age 8 was the last time I was able to carry her sleeping body to the car without waking her up.
There was no cultural expectation that our physical relstionship change, it happenned naturally as she grew.
Perhaps any cultural expectation that the physical relationship change is due to that for most mothers and children relationships it does change gradually as the child grows so it is unusual to see. Not because there is anythign "wrong" per se with it. But I guess as a culture what we don't see often does sometimes become perceived as "wrong"
In fact with my relationship with my oldest I find myslf in a position where have to consciously remember to be physically affectionate with her because I know her need didnt go away just because the opportunities decreased.
I also think that in this mother/ child situation both the mother and the children were highly affectionate touchy-feely tactile individuals.
I needed no cultural rules to feel differently about my 2 year olds wet sloppy kisses than ones doled out by a 10 year old who knows how to kiss without slobbering all over my cheek. And it takes no fear of oedipal issues to think it is ok to suck on my newborns teensy toes but think that sucking on an 11 year olds toes is just , well unsanitary and wierd.
I am very sorry for this mom who felt an all or nothign approach was the only way, and sorry for her children. Reading her story it does not appear to me that this is a normal parent child bond that must be severed in order to fit into society, but that this woman had particular intimacy issues which were coming out with her need to pull close and then push away her children.

Just my 2 cents. Better remember to cuddle my teenager today.
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Old 12-10-2005, 06:22 PM
 
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Some thoughts--

In Everyday Blessings (book) one of the points they make is that we are becoming a touch-deprived society. I remember the chapter where they talk about it really made a deep impression on me, that we really have been made too self-conscious about touching each other. As if everything leads down the path to sexual desire and potential molestation. Yet we all know what happened to the monkey with the wire mama.

Also, I met a woman at a store once who was from India, and she was a chiropracter, and we had a one of those spontaneous, long conversations you sometimes have when you click with someone. I started by saying I had gone to doctors for months with a back problem that woulnd't go away and then saw a chiropracter who actually TOUCHED me and gave me a fantastic therapeutic massage and I walked upright for the first time in 4 months! And that it occured to me that doctors really don't touch us --they poke and feel and look and then give us pills. But often what we really need to be healed is to be touched. Oh, we must have talked for half an hour in the store. She told me that in India, parents and children continue to touch all throught their lives-- that her mother would give her massages, that they would rub a certain oil into each other's hair, and feet. This was normal. Raising her children here, she does the same thing and she said it frequently freaks people out when her teenage son brushes her hair, or rubs the back of her neck.

I know the answer, but ...
WHY???

Parents should be the very place where children can always express their love freely. The mentality of hands off after a certain age is just an extension of why people have a problem with co-sleeping, or extended nursing. They can't separate the physical and the sexual. As with so many other things, we have gone too far in the wrong direction because of overreacting the bad actions of a few.
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Old 12-10-2005, 06:30 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shanagirl
she does the same thing and she said it frequently freaks people out when her teenage son brushes her hair, or rubs the back of her neck.

I know the answer, but ...
WHY???

Parents should be the very place where children can always express their love freely. The mentality of hands off after a certain age is just an extension of why people have a problem with co-sleeping, or extended nursing. They can't separate the physical and the sexual. As with so many other things, we have gone too far in the wrong direction because of overreacting the bad actions of a few.
I think (thankfully) that we are actually moving away from this, but it is a slow process.
When my generation was little and Dr Spock came along he was like the first guy in 100 years who would talk on babycare and say it was actually ok to touch and love your baby. It is a whole part of the industrial revolution, get super independant , not needy workers out to the factories as soon as possible. And btw we need mom at the garment factory too, so lets devalue the time she spends with babies.
If you read anything from the 1800s till Dr Spock came along moms were told to never even hold their children if they could help it. Babie should be kept in their cribs in separate rooms all day lest they get overstimulated etc . . . There was so much appallig advice. I dont really know how long this was part of our culture but I think that it has been very slowly decreasing over time. But it just goes to show, that once somethign is ingrained in a culture it takes a LONG time to change.
I dont think anything when I see parents and children being affectionate (except maybe "Awwww Cute!" ) But I imagine my great grandmother would see it differently.
So I dont think this is where our culture is going, but where it was until recently and we still have a long way to go to recover from it.
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Old 12-11-2005, 05:22 AM
 
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Hi Johub-- I think the original question, tho, was about older children, not so much babies. The NYTimes piece was about social 'norms' making the author self conscious about her physical affection for her older children.
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Old 12-11-2005, 10:59 AM
 
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I have definitely seen this in my own life. Dh's aunt and uncle had a child later in life and has always been more affectionate (you know because she is meeting her unmet needs with a 9 yr old!) His family has always went on and on about this- how the kids was going to "turn out gay" and all that jazz.

There was not much affection in my own or dh's family. I sure hope to reverse that, even if everyone thinks were kooks- really it is just one more reason why we will be freaks around here. I think all the families that are so terrified of affection when the kids are little really start to miss it when the kids are older, it is a very hard thing to go back and change.

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Old 12-11-2005, 02:46 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shanagirl
Hi Johub-- I think the original question, tho, was about older children, not so much babies. The NYTimes piece was about social 'norms' making the author self conscious about her physical affection for her older children.
Well sure, but if 100 years ago it was taboo to caress a baby, if now it is fully expected but some people still have hangups about older children, we have come a long way.
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Old 12-12-2005, 04:28 AM
 
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Am actually sort of torn here.

With DS#1, he had this "touching thing," where he just had his hands moving overtime, from the day he was born. As a newborn it was even annoying, how his hands were just moving moving moving all the time and it would either tickle or annoy or Idon'tknowwhat, but it was a major issue for me. And then he kept it up at school (preschool specifically), always poking or touching or holding the other children (not in inappropriate places, but just TOO MUCH) and it was painful to see other children pull away from him because no matter how much we'd say to him or remind him he just WOULDN'T STOP.

(He's mellowed quite a bit in this with other kids over the last few years ... it's not a problem that way anymore.)

Sigh.

And so in bed (a family bed) I would cuddle with him but only if he had his back to me (like spoons IYKWIM) because otherwise his hands would just be doing their thing and I'd never get to sleep.

And while he nursed sometimes I'd have to hold his hands so that he wouldn't make me nuts.

And when he came for hugs or just to sit on my lap I'd have to turn him sideways or move his arms over my shoulders so he wouldn't make me crazy (those little hands on your sides can tickle terribly).

And yeah, after he weaned (at 3) he spent the next two years trying to "cop a feel" IYKWIM. Which made me crazy. Every single time he hugged me his hands went straight breast-ward. And my other two weaned children, both weaned at 3.5, didn't do this ... well, not more than a few times, anyway .




Have b'H 3 more children and it's never been an issue with any of them. Only with my first. Can cuddle them and hug them any which way and it's never a problem. Only with him.





And it's not the same as the lady in the article, but I pray daily not to stress him out about this, and to fix whatever stress I've already put on him over it.

It's very hard.
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Old 12-12-2005, 05:47 AM
 
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Wow...that is sad. I really hope that the mother who wrote that article gets past caring what other people think and hugs and touches her kids as much as she wants.

I looked for an e-mail address because I wanted to tell her that I'm 31 (one of four kids and the "baby" in our family is 30) and my Mom still hugs, rubs our backs, strokes our hair, kisses the back of our necks...and we all turned out pretty normal well at least we aren't malfunctioning mama's girls or boys. On the other hand my husband who can't remember getting physical affection past school age has issues with showing love and affection.

I really think we do our kids a disservice cutting off physical affection...how else will they learn to communicate affection? And as far as cutting off the touching when they tell you to stop? That's when they need it the most! Maybe it won't be in public, but I don't plan on ever stopping cuddling my boys. You never get too old for your mom's hugs and there's no such thing as too much love. People confuse the rare, rare cases of unhealthy love with too much love for our childern and there is just no such thing.

Okay...I'm done now

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Old 12-12-2005, 10:58 AM
 
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I can't read it.

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Old 12-12-2005, 03:18 PM
 
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I had that problem too...if you just go to the "Get Free Access" part...click on register now and fill in your info it will then send you directly to the article. Hope that helps...
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Old 12-12-2005, 07:22 PM
 
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Maybe I'm waay off base here, but I really don't think she actually SAID that to her kids. The whole article sounded to me like those were her thoughts based on society's reaction. She wrote the article from the point of view of what would happen if she DID tell them to stop. But I don't think she really did. The article seemed more like an exercise of "what if", to me, especially with the way she ended it.

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Old 12-14-2005, 03:04 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by marybethorama
Someone is always going to say something no matter what you do.
Now that's the truth of it!
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