Nisha Moodley always asks her infant son, Raven, if she can pick him up before she gathers him in her arms.
You might think that’s an odd choice. You might point out that infants don’t speak and that even if this mom asks, she has no way of knowing his response. You might be wrong about those things.
“Since the moment he was born, we’ve always asked before we pick him up,” Moodley wrote in an Instagram post featuring her and her son flashing gigantic grins. “I always feel for his ‘yes.'”
Moodley is certainly not alone in her belief that she can intuit her son’s preferences without verbal language. Many moms say that they can “feel” their preverbal infant’s needs and desires.
Moodley relies on a mother’s sixth sense to feel her son’s consent. She always asks for it before she places her hands on his body.
Her reasoning is brilliant, especially in a culture that doesn’t always teach boys and men about respecting other people’s physical space—or the vital importance of consent in physical relationships, for that matter.
So why does Moodley ask her son if she can pick him up before doing so?
“Because we want him to know that his body is his, and that others’ bodies are theirs, and no one gets to make choices about someone else’s body,” this forward-thinking mom wrote.
Moodley concludes her post with a piece of advice that everyone should hear.
“If you ever want to hold someone else’s baby, my suggestion is to ask the parent, then ask the kid,” she wrote. “It always touches my heart when someone takes a moment to connect with him and says, ‘Can I hold you, dude?'”
Moodley’s post earned a quick 600 likes and sparked a conversation about men, women, consent, and parenting in the comments section. Of course this took place on the internet, so not all the commenters were particularly polite.
Some moms wrote in with a different viewpoint, arguing that they don’t need permission to express love to their children. The conversation remained civil, and most commenters reached a loving agreement to disagree. That’s something you don’t often find on comment boards.
Yahoo Beauty reached out to Moodley to learn more about her thoughtful parenting technique.
“The best thing I can do is honor his choices about his own body,” she said. “I also want him to pay attention to his instincts, and forcing physical touch could interfere with that.”
Moodley also elaborated on how she senses her son’s consent.
“There have been times where Raven has responded by reaching his arms out for a hug or turning his head or body away,” she explained. Those signals seem pretty hard to misinterpret.
Ultimately, it’s up to every mom to decide how to be the best parent she can be. There’s no set of rules, and there’s no one way to help a baby boy grow into a wonderful man. As Moodley herself wrote on Instagram, “Trust the pace of your wisdom and the wisdom of your pace.”