Too much excitement just might kill me!
Its important to me to teach Monkey about bodily autonomy. His body belongs to him, and no one has the right to do things to it that he doesn’t want. Equally, he doesn’t have the right to do anything to anyone else that they don’t want. I hope that by giving him a strong sense of of the former, the latter will become a given.
In some ways, there are already things I can do to help him realise this. When strangers in the shops want to pinch his little cheeks (which let’s face it, are totally nommable), I can tell them no. Incidentally, why do people feel like its OK to touch other people’s children? Most people wouldn’t walk up to a stranger and tickle their belly (unless the tickle-ee was pregnant, which is a whole other story…. And again, what is up with that?). When family members want a cuddle and Monkey really doesn’t want to go to them, I try not to let him be forced (this one can be hard though!).
When he’s old enough, if he tells me to stop tickling him, I will. Although at the moment he grabs our hands and pokes them into his belly on purpose so that might be a while coming. If he wants to grow his hair long, or cut it short, I’ll support him in that.
But I also have a responsibility to help him look after his body. Which means that I often have to do things to him that he doesn’t want. Things like nappy changes and brushing his teeth, which sometimes he’s fine with and sometimes not so much. If he tried to run across the road, I would pick him up whether he wanted me to or not.
And of course in Monkey’s case there is more than that. There are medicines that I have to make him take, and there are medical procedures that have to be done. So many times now I’ve had to hold him down screaming while a nurse or doctor does their thing. I hate it. But it’s so important, and Monkey is too little to understand why.
I went with him to every procedure. I held him down for IVs in the emergency room. I held him when they put in his nasogastric tube. And then again after he pulled it out. I held him while they needled his port, while they took x-rays. While they put him to sleep for surgery. Hubs and I even had to move him and hold him for x-rays immediately after his surgery – I think that one was the absolute worst, despite the morphine.
But I couldn’t just hand him over to the nurses to do their thing. No one cares for him as much as we do – nobody would be as gentle. It was important for me that he know I was there with him. No matter how unpleasant it was for me, it was worse for him.
So I feel like a hypocrite. It’s not OK for a stranger to pat you on the cheek, but its fine for a stranger in a doctor’s coat to poke you full of holes, and I’ll even help by holding you down.
How do you strike a balance between a child’s right to bodily autonomy and the responsibility to keep them safe and healthy?