My son has thick, curly, red hair. It's stunning. That on top of his gorgeous face makes for a very outwardly pretty kid. Strangers regularly comment, point, and do that little squeal-y noise. We smile and thank them. Strangers don't know him, so they don't know all the other things that make him so much more beautiful than what they see.
This is all fine and good until they cross the line into touching him. This also happens with disturbing regularity. And it pisses him off. I can't say as I blame him. It pisses me off for him.
Most strangers would never dream of coming up to an adult and tousling their hair. Likely, this is out of fear that the person under the hair would break the stranger's arm as the first finger came to rest upon them. Yet, this is done to kids with wanton thoughtlessness and a gross dismissal of the fact that they're people, too, with the right to bodily autonomy and personal space that the rest of us claim and expect.
Now, I get a lot of flack for complaining about this on my son's behalf. I'm supposed to excuse it, because "it's always old people who do it and they come from a different era" or "some people can't help themselves around such cuteness" or some other flimsy excuse. I'm not here to advocate for those who cannot think through their actions to the consequences they might have for others. I'm here to advocate for my son. As such, I'm here to say:
Stop petting my son as you would a dog. He is a person. He is not an animal. He deserves the respect you would afford anyone else. This goes for his peers, as well.
Kids learn respect by observing it. Give it to everyone, yes, even kids, and we'll be well on our way to a more respectful world. Funny how that works out, isn't it?