My three year-old daughter has big plans for her life. She tells me about them all the time. I love these discussions. And they often lead to bigger ones.
The other night, she told me (for the umpteenth time) she is going to have four babies. Then she added, “And the doctor will give me medicine so it doesn’t hurt.”
I found that interesting, because I have never told her childbirth hurts. She does know when she was born, doctors took her out of my belly in an operation, and that I was given special medicine then. So it could be coming from that.
Regardless, I sensed an opportunity to talk about something bigger.
“You can choose to have medication if you want to. You may not. Some women give birth without medicine. When the time comes, you will make the decision that is right for you.”
“Yes,” she said earnestly.
“The most important thing for you to remember,” I told her, leaning in close and placing my hand on her chest, “is that YOU make any decisions about YOUR own body. Nobody has the right to tell you what choices you can or cannot make when it comes to your body. Do you understand?”
She looked me right in the eye, her expression telling me she recognized the gravity of what I was saying, even if she didn’t entirely grasp the meaning.
“Whether you want to have babies or don’t when you grow up, that’s YOUR choice. Whether you have medication during birth or don’t have medication, that’s YOUR choice. Any decision you ever face in your life that has to do with your body is yours and yours alone to make. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.”
There were other things I was thinking about as I looked into her sweet, innocent green eyes. Unpleasant things. Like boys and men pressuring her to have sex. Or, God forbid, forcing her. Politicians passing laws that would impact her choices. People telling her what she should or should not believe and do.
I’m not going to talk to my three year-old daughter about these or any other manner of related topics. I want to raise my child to think for herself and have strength in her convictions. But it’s not time. Yet.
We have talked to her about privacy. Appropriate and inappropriate touching. She knows how babies are made. I just haven’t discussed with her the fact she herself will someday – ack! – have sex. And all that comes with it.
The time will come for these big discussions. And we will have them often. I am prepared and look forward to it. There is no subject I consider taboo. I believe in open, honest communication with my child.
But I do not feel it is ever too early to establish a foundation of self-respect and autonomy. The other night felt like the perfect opportunity.
How do you handle these discussions with your child(ren)?
Elizabeth blogs about her struggles and successes as a writer and a mom at The Writer Revived. She is the author of Cease Fire: A Call to End the War Between Women, which she is currently working to get published. In March 2011 she launched The Mom Pledge, an online campaign to eradicate cyber bullying among moms. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. She loves social media!