|Photo by renfield on Flickr|
Despite my recent post on foolish consistency, I really like to know where my boundaries are. When I am in the process of trying to determine exactly what is appropriate and what isn't, I wind up getting frustrated with my kids and myself. Once I am clear on what boundaries I will enforce and why, there is much more peace.
My latest conundrum has involved body boundaries and pride in appearances. One of my convictions is that my children should know that their bodies belong to them, and that if they tell someone "no", that must be respected. The only exceptions involve safety issues. For example, I am ruthless about carseat usage. Whether they like it or not, they must be properly buckled up when we go somewhere. Elena has started fighting it a little. She screams and flails. There is no shaming, roughness, punishment or anything like that, but there is also no negotiation. If we are going somewhere, she is in her seat.
Ariana has always shown some tactile defensiveness. She is extremely sensitive to anything touching her body, and even in winter will wear the least amount of clothing possible. She winds up in a short-sleeve shirt and underwear as soon as we get home. She also loathes to have her hair brushed. Regardless of how gently it is done, she is reduced to tears nearly every time. We've tried haircuts and spray conditioners, different kinds of brushes and combs, etc. They help a little, but it is still an ordeal. Now with something like brushing teeth, I feel confident in enforcing it. But there is no health/safety issue with hair--just my pride at stake because I don't want to appear neglectful.
We've negotiated different things--brushing a certain amount of strokes, stopping for a break anytime she asks, her doing it, me doing it, and pretty much every other thing that I can think of. I've explained my reasons for wanting it to be brushed, we've talked of ways to reduce tangles, let her choose special clips or barrettes...nothing really helps.
I feel icky about trying to manipulate her or force her. Deep down, I think that it is her body and that she should be able to refuse. I also remember going through similar issues with my mom over fingernails. I cannot describe how absolutely horrible the sensation was on my fingertips for the first two or three days after cutting my nails, even when they weren't cut too short. I get how ridiculously dramatic it sounds to use terms like violation, rage, or even hurt--I really do--but the feelings of helplessness and violation were real.
So now I am trying to navigate just how important it is to conform to cultural standards of haircare versus my daughter's right to say no and control her own body. I would love to wrap up this blog post with a nice little bow of resolution, but I haven't quite found it yet. So far, we compromise in that we do minimal brushing at home and negotiate some for special occasions. (Yes, I have explained several times that keeping it brushed regularly will help reduce knots and tangles, but in reality, it doesn't seem to make a huge difference, and she insists that she would rather have less brushing, period). Anyone want to solve my dilemma?