Why is bodily autonomy something I feel strongly that I should teach my daughter? We live in a country where the President has no respect for women. He believes rich and powerful white men can just grab a woman in her private parts without consent. As a mom with a daughter, this terrifies me.
I hope to teach my daughter that “no means no,” especially as it pertains to who can touch her and how. This is the basic concept behind the term “bodily autonomy.”
Thus far, my friends have been supportive. Family? Not so much. Our family members are more concerned with their own wants than with the baby’s. They want to touch and squeeze and tickle and grab her. Sometimes they quite literally try to rip her from my arms without any concern for whether the baby is happy about it. My daughter is fiercely independent, so she will let you know if she enjoys the tickling or if she wants you to carry her.
The worst culprit? My father-in-law. My FIL has very little respect for women (and not just because of the way he voted in this election). He has actually gone so far as to physically put hands on me when my husband was not around because he felt his authority threatened. Since that time, I have watched him very closely. He always gets what he wants–either by being the loudest person in the room or by being the most physical.
We’ve tried explaining bodily autonomy to him, but he responded with a tantrum and a threat to miss the baby’s birthday party. Frankly, I wish he hadn’t come because he bullied me yet again. This time, when my husband was not around, he physically blocked me from moving past him while I am holding the baby (I had to step over his leg and push past him eventually). He also “told” me in very forceful words that I was “going to” bring the baby to his father and that we were “going to” take a picture with her in his lap. He never asked.
My husband had a conversation with him about it, but it happened again at Thanksgiving. He physically tried to block me from moving with the baby in my arms. I had to step over him again just so I could her to another room to nurse. Then, well after the baby was exhausted and as we were leaving, he asked (“progress”) whether the baby would come to him. I politely said, “she’s exhausted right now.” He pushed.
“Let’s just see if she’ll come to me.”
“She won’t, but okay.”
So now, instead of packing up the car, we watched grandpa annoy her. He spoke very loudly and closely to her and make silly popping noises that she didn’t like. And, I was right–she didn’t want to go to grandpa! Her face said it all. It looked a little like this:
I’m trying to work on my sarcasm (and my politeness), so let me know if you have any tips or suggestions. Also, positive encouragement is always welcome!