Mama in the City

A blog about raising my family in downtown Vancouver

I Could Use Your Advice

I've got a parenting dilemma that I'd love for you to weigh in on. Please give me your advice and thoughts in the comment section. I feel like I can be pretty open about this issue because I am most certain that the person I will tell you about does not read my blog, but if she does...good.

Every week day morning, since September, I've walked Ben to his Jr. K class just down the block. Each drop off and pick up the parents chit chat together and it's always been enjoyable, but in the recent months I've been having an 'issue' with one of the moms that drops off her daughter. What started out as a neutral 'drop off' relationship between us has become more than frustrating. Let me set the stage. The other mom, let's call her Juanita, is a very flamboyant touchy feely mom with a big Latin flare. We've seen Juanita around the neighbourhood since Ben's baby days but the relationship was more neighbour friendly than anything else.

Anyways, Juanita has taken to trying to kiss Ben and touch him and she will even chase him to pick him up and kiss him. Chasing him because he runs away from her when he sees her. He hates it. He does not like being touched or kissed by her and I think it is because it is so forceful and in your face. She is so over the top with the kissing and touching that Ben has asked if we can go to school later to avoid seeing this particular mom. The other day she also made a comment that Ben was 'fat'. Not once. But twice. 'Oi Ben! You little beet fat in the middle'. Oh my god. I will cut you lady. Who tells a kid that they are fat? Seriously.

It really makes me feel like a big old mama bear when my kid is visibly uncomfortable and upset and especially when it is another parent that is making him feel that way. Today, after she chased him into the preschool bathroom as he ran away from her, I told her that Ben does not like being kissed or chased but she didn't hear me. Her own English is quite poor and I think she makes up for that by being so flamboyant with the kids.

So, this is my dilemma. I want her to stop teasing Ben and kissing him and touching him but I'm finding it a challenge. I don't want to be the total bitch mom and give her major attitude but I also want her to hear me. To take me seriously and stop what she is doing.

Just a side note, Ben is actually a very touchy feely kid and usually enjoys giving hugs and also giving 'movie star' kisses. There is just something about this particular situation that is different and makes him want to crawl into a shell and hide away. I hate seeing him so uncomfortable. We also will be going to kindergarten with this little girl and will be seeing her mother. I need your advice!


Jennifer said...

Wow. That is really over the top behaviour from that other parent. She obviously has no clue about boundaries and no idea in general. Most people can tell when children feel uncomfortable and WE STOP. We don't keep poking and prodding till they curl up in the fetal position. I'm not sure what to tell you. You could talk with the preschool teacher? Or keep saying the same thing over and over again each time she attacks your kid...but then he still has to get her attacks. *Sigh*

May 31, 2013 at 11:16 AM  
Tarable said...

Grrr... you've got the Mama Bear in me growling too! So here's my two cents...

The first thing I would do (if you haven't already) is talk to Ben. Make sure he knows that he is not doing anything "wrong" or "bad" by running away from this lady. Make sure he knows that he's ok to not want her hugging/kissing/whatever. Adults are always in a position of power over kids and sometimes kids need to know that the adult is being an asshole.

As for "Juanita". Speak up. Tell her, "Ben doesn't like that, please stop." Be polite (at first), but firm. Repeat in a firmer (less polite) way if necessary. Set the boundaries now - especially if these people are going to be regulars in your daily life.

As for her calling him fat...!!! WTF??? If it happens again I would definitely speak up. "Oh, we don't talk to our kids like that" or something along those lines.

Don't be afraid of looking like a bitch. I'd rather be a bitch than have my kid feeling bad/uncomfortable. Bring out that Mama Bear!!!

May 31, 2013 at 11:47 AM  

Well, Andrea, you know how I am. Ballsy and confrontational. So, IMHO, when it comes to the actual physical and emotional safety of my child, I would not hesitate in being blunt and to-the-point, even if that makes me the b*tch mom at the drop-off spot (which in your case probably won't be an issue because if Ben is uncomfortable with this woman, surely other moms and kids are as well)?

The next time this happens, don't wait until Ben has already gone into hiding. The moment she tries, yell, "STOP!" Put your body between the two of them if you need to. Grab her hands if you need to. Look her dead in the eyes. Then make your point. "Don't touch him or kiss him, please! He is scared of you! Please stop!"

I'm sure it will make for some awkwardness, but hopefully that will pass, and if it doesn't, it's her issue. You cannot be responsible for her feelings; that's her job. Your job is to look out for your little man and make sure he feels safe in school. And let Ben know it is good that he feels scared and wants to run; those instincts are a God-given gift to protect us from scary people!!

And I'm happy to come and help tell Juanita off if you need me. I am not scared of confrontations, especially with strangers. :)

May 31, 2013 at 11:50 AM  
Ashley said...

I would (and have) flat out tell her she is NOT to touch your son. She doesn't need any other explanation than that. She shouldn't have her hands on him especially if he's running away. You can be polite about it (if you want) but be firm. It's not a debate.

If she questions you what I told our overly friendly relative was that we are teaching our girls that their body is their space. If they want a hug from you or anyone else they'll ask, otherwise it's hands off. This is fundamental for teaching our children that NO is ok and that NO to a grown up is OK.

I may even have the conversation while Ben is standing there so he understands you're Team Ben and that he's allowed to get upset if she gets close.

Our girls also tell people "Please stop you're in my personal space".

Good luck Andrea!

May 31, 2013 at 12:16 PM  

I echo what everyone else has said. To add to it though, we have had some experiences with adults who don't seem to clue into the fact that their in the face behaviour was making my boys uncomfortable. I would just pull my son towards me and allow him to hug me...most of them would back off then as they didn't seem to want to get as close to me. Perhaps if he tries not running (she might be a like a dog, thinking it's a game?!) and uses you as a shield. Either way, stand your ground Mama!

This irks me to no end...people need to learn to respect personal space and it may be a cultural thing so she needs to learn. In Canada, we don't do this!

May 31, 2013 at 12:53 PM  
Lisa said...

Agreed - be the mama bear and flat out tell her to stop. If Ben doesn't like it that's enough of a reason for her to cut it out. Stay strong! I'm not one for confrontation but when it comes to my babe I'd do anything. Good luck!

May 31, 2013 at 1:03 PM  
mazoola said...

How about get a friend to write a letter in her language..have you or Ben give it to her in note card form. She can read it now or later but it gets the point across directly. Not sure what the cultural mix is in LDR but if you need it in Tagalog. I can help with that.

May 31, 2013 at 4:01 PM  
Emily said...

We all have a tendency to think that other people will feel how we would feel during a confrontation. Those of us who are sensitive to hints think that we are being obnoxious, rude or unreasonable when we are extremely direct and forceful in situations like this. I have found that people who don't get hints just need to be communicated with in more obvious ways. Often they are not offended by direct language that would horrify us - especially if there is a language barrier. I can see it is important to you to be friends with all of the other parents, but sometimes we need to take risks that may jeopardize certain relationships to protect ourselves and those close to us.

I hope that helps! Be strong, Mama Bear!

May 31, 2013 at 6:46 PM  
Kristin said...

Lots of great advice here. From an experience I have had, I would definitely consider cultural factors here. A couple months ago, I was called in by the teacher to discuss the intrusive and overly affectionate physical contact that my Big K was experiencing from one of her peers in her class. Apparently it had got so bad one day that my girl went to her teacher to ask her to stop being on her or touching her. The girls' mother is actually a friend of mine that I have come to know via Kindergarten. ; ) When we were able to speak about what the teacher had told both of us about, what I learned from this Brazilian mother was that the this behaviour is very much "Brazilian". She, the mother, told me that this is the way that she is with her (only) child and that she has come to see that behaviour in her daughter now that she is in school and with other children. So I guess my point is that, aside from the calling Ben fat part of your concern, that Juanita may very well not be aware of the discomfort that results from her overly affectionate approach with children within our dominant culture. I'd be curious to see how her own daughter is with peers.
I love a lot of the advice above and I am sure you will find a way to take bits and pieces from each comment to find an approach that is comfortable for you. Speaking to Ben and letting him know that you will help him to not experience this by saying something and teaching him to say "stop, I don't like it!" (for this situation and as a life skill in general) are great ideas. If you tell Ben to come to you when it is happening this might create the opportunity for you to let her know that Ben has told you that it makes him feel uncomfortable to receive that much affection from someone he perceives as a stranger. He, like many of us, are protective of his personal space.
I too would also find this to be really uncomfortable position to be in, but likely proud of myself as a mom for working through it. Good luck Andrea. Let us know how it goes! We could all learn from your experience!

May 31, 2013 at 6:46 PM  
Lulumum said...

I've been in the situation before with my kids and my daughter has gotten upset, so I've said to my daughter 'S, it's ok to say 'no'. You are allowed to say 'no thank you I don't like that', or I'll say to my daughter 'good using your words to say 'no, thank you'. The situation wasn't quite as aggressive as what you've experienced but it was another adult brushing sand off my daughters back and she didn't like it at all. I wanted to reinforce to my daughter that it is ok to say no to an adult.

May 31, 2013 at 10:34 PM  
Lulumum said...

Oh, and another thing. Trust your kids instincts. Kids are much more astute to things like that while adults tend to be caught up in the world of polite and properness. If he felt uncomfortable, he was probably right to feel that way. Don't feel bad about physically standing in between your child and this woman and show him that you are backing him up, and that it's ok to say no.

May 31, 2013 at 10:37 PM  
Lulumum said...

And my speech to my daughter about 'you are allowed to say no thank you' was in full ear shot of the offending adult. I wanted the other adult to hear that my kid gets to decide if that is ok or not.

May 31, 2013 at 10:40 PM  
Amanda said...

Wow. Some people really don't get that kids are human beings who deserve just as much respect as adults. I think Ben has been *pretty* clear about his boundaries using nonverbal cues, which you would think she would pick up on, especially since she would have to rely on them more given her limited English.
But it does sound like it's time to try to talk to her about it. I would start by recognizing her good intentions - after all, she is really just trying to love on your son (apart from the fat comments, which I can't really find a good intention for!). And then I would just be as blunt as possible, while talking about how it makes Ben feel. "He feels very uncomfortable when you touch him. It makes him scared, that's why he runs away." Perhaps if she can see Ben's point of view, she will recognize that he has feelings and is entitled to them, just like any adult? But if she can't get that through her head, I wouldn't be afraid to end with "I'm asking you to please stop."
I would also do what others have suggested and let Ben know you are on his team. I always tell Lilah, who is shy and does NOT like physical contact unless she initiates it, that she does not have to put up with unwanted touching, hugging, or anything else. It is her body, and she decides who is allowed in her space. This means that we are often rude to people who ask for hugs or high fives, because sometimes I think they expect me to force her to participate out of politeness, but I would much rather people think we are rude than teach her not to listen to her body and her instincts.
I think if you tell Ben to come hug you (and if you can even pick him up to shield him from this lady), and you can use yourself to get between them, like others have suggested, she may get the hint, even if she can't understand what you discuss with her. Ben will also feel extra safe because he'll be in your arms, so I see that as a win-win.
Good luck, and let us know what happens!

June 1, 2013 at 9:18 AM  
Paul Hurst said...

Andrea, this sounds like a tough situation and seems like you are getting some really good advice. As a Dad it makes me upset too, we want our kids to feel safe and know they don't need to live in fear especially in a pre K setting. You've already received a couple comments about the cultural complexities of this issue and they seem really good. If Juanita's English is poor she would naturally gravitate towards children because the conversations are much similar, I know this from experience. Latinos tend to be more affectionate than us. Heidi already talked to you about the "fat" comment but that seems to be another kettle of fish. However, she needs to know what is appropriate in our culture as well if she wants to be culturally integrated. And sometimes as foreigners we don't know when we are being inappropriate and need to be told. Whatever is said needs to be delivered in a way that recognizes that she is operating by a different set of rules, not that she is just socially inept. If you could find a translator I'm sure that would ease the conversation.
BUT, ultimately Ben's sense of security comes before some stranger's cultural issues. Good Luck.

June 5, 2013 at 11:27 AM  
melanie said...

I haven't read through all the comments and I might be a little late to the game but I was in a similar situation with a friend and this is what I did. I told the friend that we are trying to teach our children that "no means no" and so if they ask you to stop (in this case it was a friend who was always trying to tickle one of my girls) and say no then you have to stop. If I am doing something with my girls and they tell me to stop and say they don't like it I always stop right away - even if I know they do like it and are only playing. I do this because I want them to be confident with their boundaries and know that I will listen to them and respect them and that they should do the same with others. I don't know how easy it will be to talk to this other lady but the "no means no" discuss might be a good way to start. I hope that helps a bit.

June 17, 2013 at 7:51 PM  
littletiny said...

You prolly have dealt with this already but.....

I would try to be clear and direct,

"Please don't touch my son. It makes me feel uncomfortable. Don't kiss him. Don't hug him. I don't like it."

And use the "broken record technique" (the same message over and over until she gets it) until she stops.

Be prepared to lose the "friendship" and be prepared to feel uncomfortable. It's OKAY to feel bad and wish it were different.

Update us if you can! I'm interested in how it went for you!

Cheers, -- Jude (heckofamom)

June 24, 2013 at 10:23 PM  

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