Geesh. Parenting is tricky.
(what if that were my post? ha!)
Over the summer a friend was telling a story about her elementary age daughter at school. Some classmates (boys) asked her for a hug. When she said no, they told her she was "mean." My friend was, of course, sharing from the mother-of-the-girl perspective.
I started thinking about Eliot.
He's shy, reserved, gets easily overwhelmed around a lot of people and shuts down. Russ and I are not like this. In fact, Russ is probably the exact opposite. As rookie parents we started early on "Eliot, give so-and-so a hug." Historically, he retreats upon given that instruction. "Eliot, stop being rude, go give them a hug." We know he has sensory issues and still we persist.
*By the way, we NEVER do this with strangers or people he doesn't know and love. We taught him early to say "No, thank you" when people ask him for affection that he doesn't know. This is typically a scenario that plays out with people he knows, loves, and trusts. Extended family included.*
We are communicating over and over: these people are safe, therefore, they get to demand your affection when THEY want it, not when YOU'RE comfortable giving it.
Let's fast forward, add some hormones and a good ol' fashioned awkward stage and flip it. Eliot could easily be one of those boys from that story. Even out of innocence, he could create the same situation because of what we're teaching him inadvertently. We've told him countless times that HE'S BEING RUDE by not giving affection whether he's comfortable with it or not. We've taught him that he doesn't get to be in control of when people do or don't touch him. And that's not okay.
Honestly? I get embarrassed. My pride gets offended that MY kid doesn't respond like everyone wants him to. Because I'm a people pleaser. Card carrying member, actually.
So, in the last couple months, we started retraining ourselves on what we say and expect of Eliot. As it's come up, we've been honest with family and friends about letting him decide when he wants to give affection. We've stopped forcing him to give affection when he's not comfortable, no matter who it is.