Why I Told My 3 Year Old She Couldn't Paint My Nails
Before you start thinking I am a mom who should put in a little more effort please keep reading...
Yesterday, she got her first hair cut. Ever. Her beautiful, golden, ringlets nearly touched her bottom and she wanted them cut. So, for the first time ever, she didn't panic when we got to the stylist so we kept on to the next step, just waiting for the panic to set in. You see, this is probably our 5th round of this haircut game. This time, she climbed into the chair, had the cape put on and SNIP. About 8 inches of ringlets were cut off. Without so much as a flinch! From her, at least. I was dying inside, but it isn't my body or my hair, and it is what she wanted. To be honest, her hair looks gorgeous, and I am glad she did it, it was time, but those were her first baby curls! My heart strings were definitely being pulled.
To celebrate that moment, we went to a bookstore, bought a new book, and then to a kid's jewelry store where she picked out a little play make-up kit. She was SO excited. She was about to turn 4 in a few weeks, and she just had her first hair cut and she just got to choose her very first nail polish and lip gloss. (Granted, it was really just a bunch of sticky glitter with her favorite movie characters stuck to the little plastic bottles and the plastic purse they came in). She couldn't have beamed brighter or been more proud!
That night, I painted her finger and toe nails, and she painted mine. The next day, she painted her nails AT LEAST 3 more times and mine twice as many. I was caked in layers upon layers of sweet-smelling, glitter lip gloss and blue, sticky, glittering nail polish. I was so done with this mess that had taken over my pedicure, so I told her no. I am proud of her for asking me first, and I could see the hurt in her little eyes, but I realized it was a good time to start the conversation of body autonomy. On a day when I read about a group of men hosting a "pro-rape rally" less than 50 miles from our home, and the CDC recommending that women be on birth control if they're consuming alcohol, I felt that it was an important topic that needed to be started. Also, so hopefully, deeply and truly HOPEFULLY, she doesn't have to endure anything that I went through when I was younger.
I explained that even though we did it before, and it was fun, I did not want to right now. She responded with "but I really want to paint your nails!", and I said "and I get that, I really do understand that you really want to do this, but it is my body and I don't want it done right now". She kept on, sweet as can be, with "but, pleeeaaaassseee? I'll be gentle, and I won't spill my nail polish on the couch!". I knew this was time to show to stand my ground. I told her that if someone doesn't want something done to their body, it doesn't matter how much she wants to do it. I explained the role reversal as well, that if she didn't want something done to her body, and she said stop, that person should stop right away. She completely understood that, and went on to paint her own nails 3 more times and cake her lips pale blue with glitter. I was thankful to not be touched for those 10 minutes. Sometimes, as a mom, I just get touched out and that is OK! I do not have to sacrifice my autonomy, for her pleasure.
Here I am three hours later writing this, and she is caking my toenails and lips. She likely has no idea about how what I said pertains to the bigger picture. But the conversation is started. The bones are there. She was able to do with her body what she wanted, and I didn't have to do anything to my body that I didn't want. Obviously, the conversation will continue over the next two decades. But to climb a staircase, you have to take the first step.