I spent some time ruthlessly torturing my youngest daughter with a tickle fight tonight. The loudest and most used word coming from her mouth was “no”. She’d say “no no no no no no no no no no no…” but for half an hour despite her repeated insistence of “no” she never physically broke away from me. If I waited too many seconds in between tickling she’d purposely poke me to tickle her more.
Jennifer played Fun Police with occasionally voiced concerns that it sounded like someone was getting killed over the other side of the room. Playing rough with toddlers is easy and fun seeing you overpower them so easily. But 6th Graders have more bulk and muscle and she’s big enough to actually injure me if she catches me at the wrong angle or hits me full force. So Jennifer is actually right to be concerned that the rough stuff is going to result in injury, which is obviously why I ignored her and kept up the tickling.
Long ago I established the rule with the kids that if we rough house, eventually you’re going to get bonked or hurt and there’s no crying about it or being mad when it happens. I’ve learned that with youngest that “no” means “more” but “stop” means “stop”. It’s like a safe word for her. So it looks pretty rough when we play, but it’s pretty safe and all just a game we play together.
With eldest “no” means “I will hit you full force until you understand what no means”. It’s awkward explaining how I got the bruises in the ER, so I tend to let eldest out of tickle fights fairly quickly. But she’s a lover of putting on a face that everything we parents do is somehow stupid or unamusing. So my game with her is to try and break her frozen face and make her laugh. Mostly I’m just utterly goofy and relentlessly wear her down until she folds up and busts out laughing. On nights where she is especially tired she tends to halfway fall asleep on the couch and not want to get up and head to bed. My solution to this is my patented nature documentary film impression of a mother bear finding her baby bear dead and her heartbreaking attempting to nudge baby bear back to life. Pretending to be mother bear making anguished howls of pain at the discovery of her dead baby, I sound like a badly constipated Chewbacca as I gently headbutt eldest. She can’t hold a straight face and on more than one occasion pretended to fall asleep on the couch to start the game. So anyway… it looks pretty, well… odd… when we play, but it’s all pretty safe and all just a game we play together.
Jennifer hates being tickled. She doesn’t say “no” or “stop” she just looks very tense and pained when I come at her with tickley fingers, so I usually only threaten tickling once in a while. Her response to the mother bear finding dead baby routine was that it wasn’t much of a turn on either. So like I say, only 30% of what you try works sexually.
What does work for her though is gentle teasing. It’s a gentle little ruffle tease, not a hard poke. When I do so she often tells me I’m a bad man and then sort of snuggles into me, or does the faux arm slap thing. Then I tell her she likes me because I’m bad and she snuggles into me a little more, or rolls her eyes and groans… but also smiles. There’s no venom in my teasing, and usually my full attention is focused on her when I tease. After all I can only tease her about something if I’ve been paying attention to her and can catch something she did that was a little silly. It’s a little one scene play we act out on average once a day. From the outside it likely looks like I really am mean to her, but she keeps stepping up to say her lines and snuggling into me. So despite her protests, her actions says she likes it. So it looks like I’m being a big meanie when we play, but it’s pretty safe and all just a game we play together.
Also playing with the kids draws her attention and interest every time. The louder the squeals of fun the more she likes it. After I was done with youngest I sat on the couch and patted the couch between my legs and sure enough Jennifer came over for her turn with The Lord of Play. We kissed and cuddled and I teased her just a little. She sighed her big fake “I’m pretending that I don’t like this, but I do really like this” sigh. So I whispered in her ear…
“You do like this…. you like this with your vagina”.