**Please note, this one is a little harder to write, I wanted so badly to not put it down, but the words keep pushing to be written.**
My third child is the child that I always say, “God knew that I needed that kid.”
I have learned more being his mom than I ever could have imagined. Together we have learned about patience, realistic expectations, loving through attitude changes and so much more.
Right now, at the age of 12, we are re-learning about consent.
Not the type of consent that you are thinking. Well not exactly.
We have always said that this child runs nuclear-powered batteries. He needs movement, if he is still, the energy seems to build up in him like a volcano, and it will erupt at the most inopportune times. Running, jumping on the trampoline, swimming in the pool, riding his bike, skateboard, and scooters, these are all basic necessities for this kid.
The other kids choose to spend their downtime in more subdued ways, playing games, watching videos, reading books, taking naps.
This drives him CRAZY. He cannot stand it. I get it. For him.
However, in recent years, this has boiled over onto others.
The child who needs to run has assigned that same need to others. He develops elaborate games for them to all play outside. He constructs grand plans for the whole family to participate in.
Once all is set, he comes to ask his siblings to play.
In the shock of the century, the siblings do not always comply with his wishes.
They may be involved in their own activity. They may not feel well. They may simply not be interested.
This is where the consent conversation comes in.
The child who has set this event up in his head turns to me, the mom, and asks me to “make them” do the activity.
This puts me in a very hard position.
On the one hand, I can see the value in the activity he has planned. I see the memory-making potential. I recognize that it will be complete in about 15 minutes. I acknowledge that some vitamin-D would not hurt these people.
Here is the rub:
On the other hand, I see a child trying to force his will onto another person.
Just yesterday I found myself explaining, again, that he has the right to offer up the opportunity. Then his siblings have the right to accept his invitation or deny it, based on what they want to do at the time.
They may accept later. They may pass altogether.
Once they have made their choice, he then has the choice to proceed by himself or to make different plans.
He DOES NOT have the right to force them to do something just because he thinks it will be fun.
That in itself is what consent is all about.
I found myself later in the night wondering what Brock Turner’s mother would do. When he was twelve, did he always get his way? Was it a given that if he wanted it, that others would be forced to comply?
That is my nightmare.
That is the thought that keeps me awake at night.
That is rape culture in a nutshell.
It is real, and it is terrifying.
For his siblings, I need them to know that they are in control of what they do with their bodies. If they do not want to participate in an activity, they are not obligated to (school requirements aside). Someone else, even their sibling, does not have the authority to tell them what they should like or not like.
It is that simple.
It is that complicated.
With my child, we are talking about driveway basketball and front yard water balloon fights, though I cannot help but feel these are foundational conversations.
The child in question is kind-hearted and loves his family fiercely. He is the strong-willed child who has an ingrained sense of right and wrong. He spots injustice and his entire being rebels against it.
He is absolutely amazing.
He also chooses to learn some lessons his own way, this being one of them.
At the end of this lesson, he will understand that whether it is basketball, ice cream, a car ride, or something much more adult, consent is the ONLY thing that matters.
* * I recognize that some will think I am taking this to extremes, that I am being silly. I take my job as their mom very seriously. The stakes are too high, and I cannot afford to look the other way, saying “not my child.”
I do NOT believe that my child has these tendencies, though I don’t think any mom believes their child does. So we will have the uncomfortable conversations. I will take the eye-rolls, I will accept the slammed doors accompanied by the wave of attitude. That is parenting. I will stand in this discomfort until I am certain he not only understands but agrees. I will push until he is a champion for consent.
Then I will send them all outside to play some basketball.