“For Their Benefit”

A few years ago we adopted a cat; Houdini. He is a very loved cat. Now my kids are what I’d call very well versed in animal cruelty and the protection of the environment, they know all about consent but when Houdini first joined our family, they found it very easy to cross the line because they didn’t realise they were being unkind – it was all done out of love.

It was like when you have a newborn and you just want to envelop them! They definitely got a little lost in their intense feelings for him which led to a fairly unhappy cat at times. It took them a few weeks, a couple of scratches and a lot of discussion to realise that sometimes the most loving action is simply to leave him be. And it can still be hard to resist, it is something they need to be constantly mindful of.

And it reminded me of parenting. How many parents are poking and prodding and pushing and pulling their child along through life; out of love? Poking them to eat certain food. Prodding them into bed. Pushing them to achieve more, quicker. Pulling them out of the things they value and enjoy.

All things one might feel are “for their benefit” but is it for them, is it of them. What is it that makes something of benefit to a person? Can something truly be of benefit if the person does not desire it for themselves? Benefit is subjective. Does it not make sense to consult the subject?

So I think as with my children and our cat, it is something we need to be constantly mindful of in our interactions; born from love does not negate autonomy or consent. Sometimes the most loving action is to simply leave someone be.

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