My friend has a kid who’s adorable as he is an old man at four. You could see the influence his mother’s family has had on him so far and dammit, they grew him up nice. You could see he’ll be a little heartbreaker when he’s ready.
He also has hair that’s the perfect texture and length for a tasteful, cute little rat-tail of a braid. If it was any of his other aunties – my friends, who all know his family – yeah I’d attack their hair. We’ve all known each other for a decade-plus. We’re all pretty comfortable with each other
But this kid, it’s literally the second time in life he’s ever seeing me because location and schedules, so I’m like, “I wanna do this thing, but I’ll wait for his mother and ask her before I ask him if I could”. That confused my friends, which baffled me. Dude I’m not gonna just start randomly playing with his hair. He doesn’t know me. I’m a stranger to him. And even then. What if that makes him uncomfortable? What if he doesn’t like it? What if his mother -sensibly- raised him not to let random people play with her child’s hair for their own amusement?
I mean, I guess I get it? One of my friends was raised to be respectful and affectionate toward adults and just-people in general. The other one basically sees children as the equivalent of adults, but tiny.
Still, I know that would freak me out at 26 if one of my parents friends, especially if this is the first time in years that’s I’m meeting you, and I barely knew you the last time, played with my hair.
(That actually happened at a conference that I went to a couple years ago. Other attendees touched and petted my hair. Freaked me out. I played with my hair trying to make it more comfortable, like a cat licking its fur after being petted. They meant nothing by it, but still)
But that’s just it. Kids have a right to consent, just as much their parents have a right to say yes, you can play.
I didn’t ask, and I forgot about it, until we left. Didn’t matter anyway. Everybody was so busy anyway.
The parents do have a say in who interacts with their kids and how. It shows a level of trust between them and the ones that allow to act a certain way toward their children. But I think children have the final say. They know what they like, they know who they trust.
And you have to know your boundaries.