April 6, 2021

"... I was sensitive to the way my body had not been allowed its own autonomy, growing up as a girl. I began to realize that even [for] a boy, it doesn't mean all is open and everything is game."

"So when we used to play this lovely game called 'the mama clinch,"' where I would hold on to him and he was supposed to kiss me in order to free himself. And I used to love that, and he loved it as a child. And then when he was about 8 or 9, he started to not really enjoy that game and he would not jump into it. And I realized, 'Oh, he's growing up and he wants his own autonomy' and picking up on those cues. And I talk in another chapter about how important it is for us to pick up on those cues from our kids, and then that way they learn to pick up those cues from others."

Says Sonora Jha, quoted in "Memoir Offers Advice On 'How To Raise A Feminist Son'" (NPR). 

The feminist son rightly resists forced kissing. Interesting that the feminist mother had to learn her feminist lesson, and fascinating to face up to the strange reality of how much kissing is forced on babies and children. 

Is it right, this soppy smooching? Dr. Spock's classic childcare book, from 1946, famously reacted to this advice from 1930: 

"Never, never hug and kiss them, never let them sit in your lap. If you must, kiss them once on the forehead when they say goodnight. Shake hands with them in the morning.... Try it out. In a week’s time you will find how easy it is to be perfectly objective with your child and at the same time kind. You will be utterly ashamed of the mawkish, sentimental way you have been handling it."

That fell so far out of favor. But maybe we should reconsider being perfectly objective — and kind — to our children. Oh, but no one believes perfect objectivity is even possible. You'd just be fooling yourself. Still, I don't like that "mama clinch" game. I'm a bit surprised Jha talks about that openly.


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