Miss Rose is a very tactile person. She craves human intimacy more than many and constantly needs cuddles, kisses or just to be touched in some way. If she feels she has gone too long without being touched she will cling, pester, poke, pull, pinch, anything she can do to rectify that. For a long time we would tell her to stop it and it’s not nice, but now we’re recognising that it’s because she needs intimacy and instead telling her that whilst it’s not nice to poke etc, she can have cuddles if she wants them, which she invariably does.
This constant need for affection is one of the things that made me anxious about her going off to nursery. I’ve been surrounded by articles and news stories about how teachers aren’t allowed to cuddle their pupils, how physical contact has to be strictly limited, because of worries about sexual inpropriety. How cuddles can be seen as sexual grooming.
I do not believe that cuddles are sexual grooming. I believe cuddles can be part of a sexual relationship, indeed I know they can be, but I believe that they aren’t exclusively sexual. In any way at all. Just as bathing with your child isn’t sexual grooming, kissing your child isn’t sexual grooming, and having your child in your bed isn’t sexual grooming. If I denied Miss Rose the opportunity for such intimate time with me it would have had lasting psychological damage to her, such is her need for it.
Because of this, I worried that if she got hurt or sad or lonely, or just for whatever needed a cuddle, that once she was at nursery school she would be denied those things. That for those three hours a day she was in the care of another adult, she would be prevented from having the physical contact she so desperately needs.
Fortunately I was wrong, and for that I will be eternally grateful. When I went to pick her up yesterday the teacher came out and told me that during story time, Miss Rose had climbed into the TA’s lap, cuddled up, and fallen asleep. They had carefully placed her on a soft cushion with some teddies and left her to nap, not having the heart to wake her. She was given her cuddles. She was tired and snuggly and they gave her the affection she had asked for. Knowing now that if anything happens where she needs that phsyical input that she’ll get it makes me feel so happy and relaxed about sending her. Her needs will be cared for.
The thing is I understand her and I understand her well because this constant need for physical intimancy is me. It’s me all over. And I remember the psycholgical damage it did to me being stuck in a marriage where that physical intimacy was routinely denied. Not only denied but seen as repulsive. That being close to me was a negative experience. For someone like me, and for someone like Miss Rose, that denial of something so fundamentally important to you hurts and scars. However, fulfilling it can also be damaging.
As a child she is satisfied by cuddles. She is fulfilled completely by the totally none sexual contact that comes from friendships and family relationships. I still always want to hug my family and friends because of that need I share with her. However, as she grows and matures, she will start understanding that she can have a different need fulfilled, the need that my husband couldn’t and wouldn’t fulfill for me. We are going to have to teach her that, whilst satisfying that need in the short term, she may find long term damage in seeking physical intimacy from everyone who may wish to offer it. It’s a complex lesson but it’s one I am far too aware of, and hopefully recognising it in her now whilst it’s in the beautiful innocence of youth, we can start setting down the groundwork for the important lesson of adulthood.
Until then she will be satisfied with the love she gets at home, the cuddles she gets at school, and they physical affection she is supplied with by everyone around her. And I will feel immeasurably grateful that the people in her life that I entrust her too are able to provide that for her.
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Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!