Boundaries and being a dad with a beard

Beards and boundaries

Since about one-and-a-half years I have a beard — I feel very Viking now. That has had some unexpected consequences regarding my daughter and boundaries.

No more kisses

“Do you want a kiss goodnight?” I ask my daughter every night. Recently, the answer has been a resounding ‘no’. Not because she doesn’t love me — I hope — but because I have a beard and that tickles. I grudgingly concede, but it’s a bit hurtful. I do spend my days cleaning up after her majesty, playing with her, and driving her around.

Of course, I also want to teach her that people have to respect her physical boundaries. If she doesn’t want a kiss, nobody is allowed to force one on her. #metoo and all. Although she does fully expect to be allowed into the toilet with us, so the nuances are clearly still lost on her.

It does raise an interesting point. How do you teach a child about boundaries when you have to set them at the same time?

Boundaries

“No, you’re not allowed to eat that half-eaten sandwich off the street, you shouldn’t have picked it up in the first place,” I found myself saying recently. We’ve been having similar discussions a lot.

Sometimes, I have to physically restrain my daughter. You know, at those times she wants to stick fingers into live power sockets or walk through the shards from the glass she just broke. However, if I think about it, I wouldn’t want somebody to physically restrain me when I was trying to eat a sandwich or clean up broken glass.

The difference is — of course — that I’m an adult and my daughter is a three-year-old. It set boundaries for her safety. However, try explaining that to said three-year-old.

The fine line

Luckily, or unluckily, I can now reason with my daughter. I can try to explain why certain things are dangerous and I have to restrain her. Of course, her arguments for wanting to do these things anyway is also quite compelling: “But I want to.”

You have to set boundaries, and you can’t always explain them. I guess that’s the price you pay for being a parent. On the other hand, my daughter should know that she can set boundaries herself. If at some point she ends up with some adult physically restraining her for no good reason or forcing a kiss on her, I want her to know that that isn’t okay.

She needs to know she can say ‘no’ to strangers offering her candy, so to speak.

The thing is, a lot of abuse doesn’t involve strangers, but family, friends, and people a child knows. In other words, not strangers at all. So she needs to know she can say ‘no’ to people she knows too. And, as a consequence, to me.

Goodnight

In the end, I suck it up and only blow my daughter kisses before she goes to sleep. They’re her boundaries, after all. And what do you know, every other time I get called back in to kiss her goodnight anyway. On her hair, though, often as not, even though she tells me that tickles too.

Author: Martin Stellinga

I'm a science fiction and fantasy writer from the Netherlands