These are words of Lucy, a wife and mother of two with a part-time job who is currently hosting a mother and her son who are seeking asylum here in the United States:

We teach our children about consent.  No means no. How do we undermine this?  Under what circumstances do we tell our children that when they say “no”, it doesn’t matter?

If only things had gone this smoothly with Juan at the eye clinic.

Juan (age 9) needs glasses.  He even wants glasses. The school gave him a quick assessment and then gave him a voucher for free glasses.  The “hook” is that you get your eye exam from a specific clinic and they have a backlog so even though an appointment was made back in November, the earliest date was in January.  We went to the appointment yesterday. I’m not proud of myself. This is how it went down.

The clinic is a little busy and clearly serves low income clients.  They are quite busy and a little behind but it is OK because I don’t need to pick up my son for 2 hours.  Juan only speaks Spanish. At this clinic, I was overjoyed that everyone spoke Spanish – except for the nurse and doctor who helped us.  It started off well with a regular eye test and the chart across the room. Then, we went into a room and the nurse wanted to put drops into Juan’s eyes.  He did not want that to happen. We tried to hold Juan and he started screaming and crying. I’m not talking about usual reticence – this is traumatic for him.  This is a boy who was beaten in his home country. This is a boy who has said “no” in the past, and no one listened. This is an issue of consent. I suggested that perhaps the drops wouldn’t be necessary.  The nurse said that they were, and that it would be either she or the doctor who did it.

Did it stop here?  No, the nurse took us to another room and tried to put the drops in his eyes.  Screaming, writhing, “No no no no!! I don’t want it!” I am part of this. I am traumatizing him. I am holding his legs, and his mom is trying to hold his arms. His mom is taking my lead on this.  The nurse is unsuccessful and stops.

At this point, I’m thinking – I haven’t had drops in my eyes for years, and I just got new glasses.  My daughter didn’t need drops to get her glasses, and neither did my son. Drops are not necessary. Here I am, a participant in traumatizing a child, and not even for a good reason.  It is for a pair of free glasses. I know full well, as my brain starts to wake up, that for $69 measly dollars, we can get an eye exam and glasses with no eye drops and no trauma.

Maria signed a document declining the drops, and the doctor took us to the room where they put the lenses up to the eyes.  I’ve always thought that it looks like a metallic butterfly. Juan tried to look through the lenses and just started to sob.  We took a break. I would be late to pick up my son from school. Juan tried again a few minutes later, and this time, he got through it.  I’m not sure about the doctor. The exam wasn’t really like the exam that my kids had. The doctor is probably thinking, “Those ungrateful people.  Here I am, providing glasses for free.” I’m thinking, this is not worth it. We just traumatized Juan over something stupid. I can totally see doing this if he has appendicitis and needs to go into surgery but I just did this for a pair of free glasses.

I am also thinking about all of the other times where Juan should be able to give or withhold consent.  He still needs his flu shot. Do we make him get it, or do we ask him? We already fixed his teeth without consent (They were infected. It had to happen, consent or no.)  What if he refuses to go to school? Where is that line with consent? What I know for sure is that I crossed it yesterday.

Next week we will read about some of the efforts being made toward reunification, something Maria, and her daughter Julia have been working toward for over a year!

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