The time has come. My kids are over ten and seven years old. We have taught them about privacy for themselves, and respecting their bodies and their right to space. My tweenager now locks the bathroom door, doesn’t want anyone coming into her room without knocking, doesn’t want her mum in the changing room in shops with her, or in her cubicle in the swimming changing room, and she certainly doesn’t like it if her brother comes barging into the bathroom when she is in the bath. This is all normal, and understandable and as parents we are giving our kids the space and privacy they need and want, as is appropriate.
However, the same is not returned and my kids don’t seem to get that we, as adults also would like some privacy.
We have always been generally very open about things, we don’t make nudity shameful, we have talked about how bodies change and things like sex, periods, etc are not forbidden topics. We have bathroom shared, and they come in and out of our rooms freely.
Recently though I had to sit my kids down and explain to them, that when they ask for privacy, time alone in the bathroom, no one barging into their rooms when they are changing, we give it to them, and we respect that. However, there are also rules for adults and we want them to know them and try and stick to them.
It all came about when I had locked myself into the bathroom, to give myself the regular hormone injection I have to have, at a certain point in my cycle, whilst we are in our last ditch effort to try for baby number 3. This usually requires less than five minutes of my time, I need space and quiet and a clean surface. Normally I do these injections when the children are at school but on that day, for uncontrollable reasons, I hadn’t been able to, and they were at home, so I had to slip to the bathroom, prepare and inject. It involves me shooting myself in the back of my thigh/top of my bum with a needle, and frankly I don’t need an audience or help whilst I am doing this, I don’t even let the husband into the bathroom during the process. I told the children I was going to the toilet, I needed five minutes of privacy and that I would be back soon. They were both occupied and happy.
Less than minutes later, I am mid process and there are bangs on the door, and questions being asked and demands to come in and talk to me.
I politely explained that I was busy, I just needed a couple of minutes and could they wait. It didn’t work. Child won’t go away and continues to knock on door. I managed to finish, clean up, put the supplies away and opened the door, furious at not being listened to. Both children got a sound lecture on “if Mummy says she needs five minutes of privacy, she means that, you are ten and seven, not babies or toddlers, I also need space sometimes and you need to respect that”. I didn’t handle it well. There’s something about being poised with a needle about to pierce yourself, and inject substances into your body (that bloody hurts, did I forget to mention that bit, my bum resembles a pin cushion and if you see me sitting funny, now you know why!) having had to make an area clean, prep the injection, make sure you have got it all right, you are about to stab yourself, then knock – knock at the door and a demanding little voice makes itself known that set my teeth on edge and annoyed me.
After i had cooled down, and apologized for being shouty, and we has established that the oh so urgent knocking on the door whilst I was mid hormone stabathon, was in fact not urgent, and that it could have waited a few more minutes, we then had a chat about privacy and that when mum says she needs privacy, she means it, and that we respect their need for privacy, we also would like some of that returned when we ask for it. We do operate an open door policy but that if an adult is in the bathroom or their bedroom door is shut, then it means they want space and unless it REALLY is urgent, you knock, if you are told you need to wait a few minutes, then you need to wait. If you persist and don’t give the person space then you may find you are not very popular, and
It’s hard going from being when they were small and toddlers, and in our space all the time, because that’s what toddlers and small children do, to teaching them that we love having them around, but just like they need space and privacy, sometimes adults do too. Just because I shut the bathroom door, doesn’t mean I don’t love them anymore. (Now if someone could explain that to the cats, in a way they could understand, too, that would be great!)
Gently teaching our kids to respect the boundaries of others, that when someone says they want space or privacy we need to respect that, is part of parenting. I wonder if we haven’t started with that early enough. We have been so focused on the children and teaching them about their space and privacy, we have forgotten to teach them that we as their parents also need that sometimes too. I think teaching kids this is important, I kind of regret leaving it so late.
Parenting likes to throw new learning curves at you, daily, doesn’t it…?