I have been thinking a lot more about bodily autonomy lately. As I have seen Kiran grow in leaps and bounds with his understanding – and even some body movement – I think it’s an important thing to be intentional about.
It has to be hard depending on others to provide mobility.
I was already really good about asking him for kisses and hugs. He doesn’t like to – or perhaps hasn’t quite figured it out yet – give kisses with his lips. But when I say “kiss, kiss” or “Can Mama have a kiss?”, he will bring his cheek to me for me to kiss it. “Big hug, big hug” is almost always something he’s happy to provide, and he is such a good hugger! But on the occasion he doesn’t wrap his arms around me, I let him have that choice. It’s important, maybe even MORE important for someone who can’t communicate to advocate for himself yet, that I strive to teach him this: His body is his.
What I have added in more recently, during diaper changes (when on the floor), I now ask him to lay back. “Can you lay down so Mama can change your diaper?” It takes him some time to process this request, but he has learned the meaning because months ago, we started a new bedtime routine. As soon as I lay him in bed, he gets up on his side and looks over his side railing. I wait patiently with his blanket and say “Let me know when you’re ready to be tucked in.” (This evolved from “Lay down so mama can tuck you in. You have to lay down.” etc) Some nights it takes a LOOOOOT of patience, but he always eventually complies. And I like that it gives him some control. So – back to diapers – this isn’t really a super negotiable thing – when it’s time to change him, it’s time. But I give him the option of voluntarily laying back, and I give him time to process the request and decide. This has been just in the last week or so, honestly (I am slow to think of these things sometimes, and I also have to consider where he’s at with his understanding and ability to control/move his body), but he is already getting it and complying most of the time. When he doesn’t, I just say “Mama has to lay you back so we can change your diaper” so he knows what’s about to happen with his body.
And I realize I need to be better about this all the time. I have always been in emotionally charged situations – at the doctor “This is what is going to happen” for instance – but I am less good about making it a part of daily life. So it’s a new and important goal of mine: Communicate MORE about what I am going to do with his body: where we are going, if I’m lifting him up or helping him walk, etc.
As hard as this has all been, this time home has been so good. For both of us.