The doctor and my daughter: A lesson in body safety

“There are two ways we can go about this,” says the doctor. He stands opposite me, kind eyes behind large glasses, tongue depressor and torch in hand.
My daughter buries her face into my chest, hiding as she does from all unknown men. She is crying hysterically. The doctor continues.
“You can hold her down so I can look in her mouth and throat, or we can skip this part of the examination.”
I sway her in the same soothing way I’ve always done.
“Will it help confirm your diagnosis?” I ask.
“Yes,” he replies.
“Will having that diagnosis alter her treatment plan?”
She is shaking now, wailing, wanting to be anywhere but here. I calmly explain to both child and doctor that no one will be looking in her mouth today. She softens, whimpering. The doctor nods in understanding.
Don’t get me wrong, if it was life or death, I would’ve held her down, but it wasn’t. Still it was an important opportunity.
One day there may come a time in her life when someone wants access to her body. If her gut says “no”, I want her to have as much practice as possible listening to and acting on that feeling. I want her to know it is ok to yell, run or make a scene if it improves her chances of feeling safe.
On the drive home, she looks out the window, eyes puffy and nose sniffing.
I catch her eye in the rear vision mirror.
“Thank you for telling me how you felt at the doctor’s office. Sometimes us grown ups can forget that you’re the boss of your own body.”
“Yeah, I am,” she says.
Her eyes flutter then close and she drifts to sleep.
And with that, my job, for now, is done.


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