Lily Isobella had been teaching her son to express his right to consent from a very young age and the efforts paid off.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on July 23, 2021. It has since been updated.
Teaching consent can be one of the most valuable lessons a child can get. For Lily Isobella, it was her 2-year-old son who delivered a stunning lesson in consent. For any mother, getting a hug from a child is the most normal thing one can imagine but when Isobella's son turned down her request for a hug, it was a moment of realization for her. Isobella was tucking her son into bed when she requested a good night hug from him. "My son looked up at me, with his huge 2-year-old blue eyes, and said, in all sincerity: “NOT TONIGHT,” wrote Isobella in Cuddleparty.
Isobella was heartbroken. "I felt like my heart had been ripped into tiny little pieces, and I was instantly awash with a hundred replies that wanted to tumble out of my mouth: "BUT you hugged daddy… BUT you know you want to… we always do… Don’t you LOVE me? But I WANT to cuddle you…" she wrote, reported Comic Sands. Isobella took a step back and processed the information and realized it was one of her biggest parenting wins. Her son showed her that she wasn't entitled to a show of affection from her son and he was well within his right to reject her request for a hug.
Her two-year-old son was exercising the consent she had successfully taught him. "I had to stop and realize that I had created something marvelous," said Isobella. She had raised a 2-year-old who felt safe enough to impose his own limits on touch and affection, even with a parent. She wanted to cuddle him. She wanted to shower him with affection. She wanted love. But, he said no and that matters. "God damn it, it sucked," she wrote. "THIS is his choice and he absolutely has a right to it. And THIS is an awesome learning opportunity."
“No worries my boy,” she replied. “No cuddles tonight. I'll wave goodnight and I’ll see you tomorrow” Her son then uttered two words that broke her. “Sorry, Mummy.” Isobella saw a teaching moment. She had taught her son to exercise consent, and now, it was time to teach him to never apologize for exercising it. "So I went right back in and sat on his bed, and we talked about how it is ok to not want cuddles and say so. We talked about not ever being sorry for how you feel. We talked about what to do if we want a cuddle one day, but not the next day. What to do if we want a cuddle and our best friend doesn’t? What to do if we start a cuddle with someone and they get halfway through and don’t want to keep cuddling," she wrote.
Lily Isobella is specialized in women’s health and actively helps women battle sexual assault. She has helped countless women reclaim their health, vitality, body sovereignty, and mental well-being after instances of sexual abuse, rape, violence, and trauma. Isobella said her son exercising his consent showed that it's never too early to talk to children about consent. "You see, I spend a lot of my time talking to parents about talking to their kids about sex, and most of the time, I have to convince them that this conversation does not start at puberty. It starts in moments just like this. At 2 years of age. You don’t wait until kids are 13 and struggling with the cocktail of desire, hormones, and media. You don’t wait for it to be purely about sex," she wrote.