My daughter's body is her own, just as my body is mine and mine alone. And I think that undeniable fact is something I can teach my daughter very early on and at a young age. We constantly talk about bodily autonomy in age-appropriate ways, which is why there are more than a few things I won't do to my daughter's body without her permission. I don't want to undermine these very important messages with my actions, no matter how innocent they may seem.
Obviously, when my daughter was a baby I had to make decisions about her body without consulting her. I couldn't ask her if it was alright to, say, change her diaper or give her a bath or give her shots. I knew that those things were all beneficial for her, and because she couldn't do them herself I had to do them for her. But even then there were some decisions I refused to make until she was old enough to give me her permission. And now that she's older I do consult her before making other decisions about her body that I believe she has a right to always be in control of.
I don't want my daughter to think that someone else has the right to her body, or the right to tell her what to do with her body. And if I'm going to teach her to demand people respect her bodily autonomy and her space, I have to do the same. That's why I refused to do the following to my daughter's body without her permission:
Pierce Her Ears
I don't judge any mom who wants to pierce her baby's ears at any age, but my personal choice has always been to wait until my daughter was old enough to ask for a piercing specifically. I have just never felt comfortable about altering my child's body without her explicit permission. She deserves to make that decision on her own and after she has learned how to keep her piercings clean.
Choose Her Clothing
Obviously I didn't ask my infant daughter if it was alright for me to dress her in this shirt or that onesie. And I don't listen to my daughter when, say, she doesn't want to wear a coat when it's cold outside. She has to wear clothes that are winter appropriate so she's safe. But as she gets older I want her to be free to express herself in a way she sees fit. I want her to know that she has the right to pick out pieces of clothing that reflect her unique personality.
I will admit, it's getting tricky now that she is close to becoming a teenager, and we frequently have to discuss her clothing options so that she adheres to, say, school rules. But in the end I will never tell my daughter she has to dress in a way I would dress.
I always ask my daughter (and my son, for what it's worth) if it's alright for me to hug, kiss, or tickle them before showing them affection. Again, I cuddled my baby without her explicit permission when she was an infant, but when she was a toddler and from then on I made sure to let her know that no one gets to touch her without her explicit consent.
My daughter doesn't like to be tickled, and I don't think it's at all funny to tickle someone without their permission and/or after they explicitly ask you to stop. Unless my daughter is OK with it (and for the record, she isn't) I'm not going to tickle her and call it a "game."
Make Her Interact With Anyone She Doesn't Want To
I must admit that when my daughter was younger I encouraged her to hug and kiss family members... even when she didn't want to. But as she grew older I realized that she deserves to make that decision all on her own. Forcing my daughter to hug or touch someone she doesn't want to, even if it's a family member, only perpetuates the rape culture I try so hard to combat.