Advocating for my Daughter
I understand my daughter. Probably better than anyone. So it really bothers me when other people either don’t understand her, don’t respect her wishes, or both.
My husband is big on physical and verbal affirmations of affection. It crushes him when our daughter runs away screaming “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!” when he wants a hug, or if she doesn’t want to say “I love you.” His relatives are the same. There is an unspoken rule in society that your children and their children must love you unconditionally, or at least act like it regardless of how they feel.
My husband is a good father, but for the first few years of her life he was working while I stayed at home. When he was home he was often tired from work. He slept in or played games. He wasn’t attentive when she was trying to show him something. As a SAHM mom I can do that because I spend all day every day with her. He can’t. There wasn’t much of a relationship there in the beginning, and so she shyed away from him and favored me. He’d ask for hugs and she’d deny him. She denied most people. And he was hurt. He pushed harder- guilt tripping (”you’ll make Daddy saaaad”) or issuing threats (”no story unless you say you love me”). Which is entirely the wrong way to go about it. I’ve told him that the harder he pushes the worse it gets. Build a relationship and let her come to you.
I have always tried to be respectful of my children’s bodies. They have a say in what makes them comfortable. If my daughter doesn’t want a hug or a kiss then I won’t pester her for one. She is not my property. Her body doesn’t belong to me. My job as it relates to her body is simply to make sure its physical needs are met. Bathing. Feeding. Tending to wounds and illnesses. Wiping asses. Making sure she doesn’t get hurt. It is not my job to make sure she gives people hugs.
There is one thing she absolutely hates and I have no idea why. She hates when people call her to FaceTime. As a toddler the phone was engaging enough that she enjoyed such chats. For the past three years she’s run screaming out of the room when I’ve asked her to call a relative. People get disappointed and say “it’s okay, I guess we’ll call back later.” The problem is that later is never good. She HATES this activity.
Birthdays are the biggest problem. Grandparents expect to get a phone call. I usually resort to sending them a card made by her, or if I can get one, a video of her saying “happy birthday.” Many times I can’t get a video as she doesn’t like being told what to do, even if it’s phrased as a nice ask. Sometimes I can’t get a card. One year I had to fake cards because she just didn’t want to do it.
Her birthday is the worst. I feel her pain. The last thing she wants to do on her birthday is stop what she’s doing and talk to random relatives. It doesn’t matter whether or not she likes them. She loves her grandparents! She just doesn’t want to talk to them on the phone. Some people have gotten a tad better, asking when it’s a good time to call rather than just calling outright. But the problem is that with four sets of grandparents and two aunts who also want to chat, that’s SIX times she has to do an activity that she HATES. Even after three years of her screaming “NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” they continue to try. I’m sorry, but that’s not a nice thing to do on her birthday. People want to wish her well and completely disregard the fact that she hates it. That they are actually ruining her day bit by bit.
I’ve recently started advocating with our family for my autistic son. After some really horrible interactions I sent a nicely worded email about how they need to interact with him if they wanted to have a positive experience. Elopement had to be discussed. It felt weird. For some reason it’s against social code to tell people how to treat your child, and my husband’s side of the family gets bent out of shape if I so much as send them gift ideas for our children for Christmas (I don’t demand they buy specific things, just tell them the kids’ sizes and let them know what they’re into). But it had to be done and the response was actually pretty positive.
My daughter just had her birthday. Phone calls started coming in and I was getting texts asking for a good time to call. After several phone calls and my daughter repeatedly screaming and running out of the room I decided I’d had enough. If I can advocate for my special needs son then I why can’t I do the same for my quirky daughter?
I crafted a mass text and tried to be as polite as I could.
I hope I got my point across politely. There are so many things that society expects us to do and we continue to do them without thinking, even when the effect is the opposite of what was intended.
*Originally posted on my Tumblr.
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